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Fiesta finale

Tens of thousands of people already have visited the 75th annual Chasco Fiesta in downtown New Port Richey this week, but just as many _ perhaps more _ are expected for the grand finale weekend that lasts from noon today to 6 p.m. Sunday.

Several of the biggest events have been saved for this weekend, including the final performance of the traditional Indian Pageant at 7:30 p.m. today in Sims Park, the boat parade at 1 p.m. Saturday on the Pithlachascotee River and the Chasco Country Concert with Kevin Sharp and Blackhawk on Saturday evening, also in the Sims Park Amphitheater.

The gates for the Blackhawk concert open at 5:30 p.m., with opening acts by country singer Daniel Lee Martin, followed by country singer Kevin Sharp, and last, triple-platinum recording artists Blackhawk.

Right now, Blackhawk is the hottest country group out of Nashville.

The group's 1994 self-titled debut album was certified double platinum on Aug. 13, 1996. The single from that album, Every Once in a While, was the No. 1 country song, and four other cuts on the album hit the Top Ten list for several weeks.

Blackhawk's follow-up album, Strong Enough, debuted at No. 4 on Billboard's country album chart, the highest debut of a country group since Alabama's The Closer You Get in 1983. The single I'm Not Strong Enough to Say No was No. 1; another single on the album, Like There Ain't No Yesterday, was No. 3.

The New Port Richey concert will be a homecoming of sorts for lead singer/mandolin player Henry Paul, a New York native who lived in Brandon and played with the Outlaws until 1989, when he left the classic country group _ and Brandon _ to find a more country-rock type band.

In Nashville, he eventually met songwriters Van Stephenson and Dave Robbins, who already had experienced a great deal of success writing for acts like Eric Clapton and Restless Heart.

The talents of the three jelled, and they released an album together in 1994, with Robbins doing vocals and keyboards and Stephenson doing vocals and guitar.

The $25 tickets for the front reserved section sold out within days after the announcement that two top country acts would be in the show. A few $15 rear reserved section seats were available at press time at the West Pasco Chamber of Commerce, 5443 Main St., New Port Richey (just west of the river) or from Ticketmaster. Tickets at the gate will be $18 and $28.

Meanwhile, the carnival rides remain open, the Cotee River Lions Club will serve chicken barbecue from noon to 10 p.m. today, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday, and runners will take off in succeeding waves for the 10K, 5K and Little Indian Fun Run, starting at 7:30 a.m. Saturday.

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