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Boat parade has natural charm

Pasco County is the southernmost of the eight counties in the Nature Coast Coalition.

So for weary urban escapees, Pasco can fairly be called the gateway to the Nature Coast.

The counties' scenic beauty was chosen as one of the themes for this year's Chasco Fiesta boat parade Saturday _ and greenery was in abundance.

Palm fronds stuck out of boats' gunwales and transoms. One boat sported cutouts of manatees. Another towed an inflatable toy shark and toy alligator.

"We asked them to use materials native to Florida, and they really did a great job," said John Martin, chairman of the boat parade. The event was sponsored by the New Port Richey Rotary Club and the Community Health Purchasing Alliance.

Thousands lined both banks of the Pithlachascotee River under a brilliant blue sky to watch 43 contestants glide by.

The other theme of the parade was "Our Native American Heritage."

American Indian history is what Chasco Fiesta is all about each year. The 10-day event, which ended Sunday, celebrates the Calusa Indians, who once lived in Pasco.

Several crews in the boat parade wore American Indian clothing, and one winner, the Genesis School, sported colorful cutouts of totem poles on its boat.

The displays impressed Betty Pierce, who just moved to New Port Richey from Long Island, N.Y. It was the first boat parade she had seen anywhere.

"When you put a lot of effort into it, it shows," said Pierce, 63. "It's really beautiful."

"It was pretty cool, said Brittney Outlaw, 9, of New Port Richey, who also was attending her first boat parade. "I liked the one with the fishing pole and the alligator."

Carol Parris helped make one of the more unusual decorations, a model of a space shuttle that trailed smoke.

The boat, entered by F.

I. Grey & Son Realty, towed a sign that read, "For Sale: Lunar Lots with Earth View."

Parris, 43, said she, her husband, David, and other agency employees worked on the boat for about two weeks.

The entrants started at Moonlight Bay and motored 1{ miles south to the Main Street bridge, where they were judged. Then they made the return trip.

The parade was led by a bevy of local elected officials. New Port Richey Mayor Peter Altman got a round of applause, butthat was on the New Port Richey side of the route. (A referendum has been proposed to allow New Port Richey to merge with Port Richey.)

State Attorney Bernie McCabe shared a boat with Public Defender Robert Dillinger, and neither made the other walk the plank.

There were three categories of judging: for-profit organizations, non-profit organizations and schools.

Among for-profit organizations, first place went to the Genesis School, second to the Allgood Gallery and third to SunTrust Bank.

Honorable mentions were given to N. John Stewart and Happiness is Florist.

Among non-profit organizations, the winners were the Pasco County Parks and Recreation Department, Mac and Debbie Clark and the West Pasco Historical Society.

Honorable mentions went to Keep Pasco Beautiful and Sand Pebble Yacht Club.

In the school category, the winners were the Gulf High School science department, Gulf High School Buccaneers Band and the Ridgewood High School Marching Rams.

The River Ridge Interact Club won honorable mention.