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Seize the year

With so much crammed into January _ starting with the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus and wrapping up with Super Bowl XXXV and all its connected festivities, including the annual Gasparilla blowout _ it may be hard to think past the first month of 2001.

But that's only the start of this, the busiest time of the year in Tampa Bay for entertainment of all kinds. For families, February offers the fun and glittery amusements of the Florida State Fair, followed by March's Florida Strawberry Festival, and then St. Petersburg's Festival of States.

On stage, Broadway diva Dame Edna will tread the boards at Ruth Eckerd Hall, and then Fosse moves in to the Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center. In March, opera lovers near and far will descend on Tampa for the world premiere of Anton Coppolla's new opera, Sacco & Vanzetti. Like your theater outdoors? American Stage will be in the park for Love's Labours Lost.

Musicians from Aaron Carter to B.B. King, Tony Bennett to Pat Benatar, are booked in area venues. The Tampa Bay Blues Festival will fill Vinoy Park in late March with the sounds of Los Lobos, Jonny Lang, Jeff Healy and much more.

For art lovers, there is the International Miniature Show and Art Festival Beth-El in January, the Gasparilla Festival of the Arts in March, the Mainsail Arts Festival in April and many more besides.

Head spinning yet? Check out the next few pages for scores of ideas to fill your free time for the next few months and beyond. And as many events as we've listed here, you'll find more each week in Weekend. Stay tuned.