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From grandma to kids, Oldsmar Days offers family fun

Residents have asked for family fun.

And organizers of this year's Oldsmar Days say they will deliver with four days of rides, clowns and face-painting for children, plus country line dancing and horse-and-buggy rides for all, and a host of musical performances.

"It is going to be wonderful," said Katie Kalieta, director of marketing and sales for the Oldsmar Chamber of Commerce, which presents the event.

She said at the end of last year's Oldsmar Days a poll indicated residents wanted the event to entertain grandparents, mom and dad as well as the kids.

""We're trying to have more ofa family theme," Kalieta said. "There is something for everyone."

The 35th annual event kicks off Thursday with the opening of the carnival at 6 p.m. in R. E. Olds Park. The carnival, produced by Arnold Amusements of Tampa, includes the Eli Ferris Wheel, several high-speed rides and kiddie rides.

Families will be entertained with eight different music performers and bands, rides, exhibits and plenty of food through March 23.

The carnival continues Friday night, which is Country and Western Night from 6 to 10 p.m. Disc jockey Grant Heymond will play country music from the '80s and '90s and a professional line dance instructor will attend.

Saturday morning the Oldsmar/East Lake Rotary Club sponsors the 15th annual Armadillo Runat SunTrust Bank at State and Fairfield streets. There are three different categories for the run: a 10K and 5K starting at 8 a.m. and a 1-mile run starting at 7:40 a.m. Awards will be given in various age groups.

Later Saturday morning, more than 50 local organizations will march in the Oldsmar Days Parade. It begins at 11 a.m. at the Oldsmar Civic Club and heads north to Oldsmar Elementary. Unicyclists will join clowns, the Sheriff's Office Color Guard, a kazoo band, horseback riders and more than 20 antique cars in the parade.

The rest of the day will be filled with a variety of music events, centered around a jazz theme, Kalieta said. Belinda Womack and Kool Reflektions will play jazz standards and original compositions. Sunny LaRosa and America's Youngest Jazz Band, a group of local youngsters ages 11 to 13, will follow.

In addition to the carnival, there will be displays from local artisans and civic groups. Hairdressers from Hair We Are of Oldsmar will be offering haircuts for $5, 25 percent of which will be donated to the chamber. Members of Gemini Gymnastics will be performing throughout the day, and Harborside Healthcare will be offering blood pressure readings.

More than a dozen vendors will sell everything from hot dogs and hamburgers to Philly cheese steaks.

Oldsmar Days is trying a new pricing system for food this year. Tickets sold in 50-cent increments will be used to pay for food. Menus will indicate how many tickets are needed for each food item.

The four-piece band The Porchdogs will start Saturday evening with a 6 p.m. performance of folk, bluegrass and rock 'n' roll. Florida band Patrick Foy and Conch Critters will take over at 8 p.m. playing Jimmy Buffett music.

Last year, the Community Holiness Choir was such a hit, Kalieta said, they will return Sunday at noon with an hourlong gospel performance.

A trio of Florida acts will take the stage Sunday afternoon with jazz, blues, Latin and funk backed by the Gumbi Band. Percussionist Gumbi Ortiz leads the seven-piece band that plays everything from Afro-Cuban music to rock.

The Gumbi band will serve as backdrop for jazz vocalists Fred Johnson and Theo Valentin. The grand finale at about 6 p.m. Sunday will be a jam session with all three acts.

"We have a lot of outstanding entertainment this year," Kalieta said. "It's going to be a fun weekend."