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Spring breakaways

With the college crowd mobbing the beach, here's a guide for the folks who have actually heard of Paul Anka and enjoy Renaissance history that they won't be tested on.

It seems students have laid claim to Clearwater Beach during their spring break, so locals may want to take a spring break of their own _ a little farther inland.

There are several events this weekend that offer an escape from the maddening spring crowds, starting at Ruth Eckerd Hall.

On the bill: Paul Anka and Gordon Lightfoot.

"I'm sorry. We just don't know who they are," said spring breaker Rita Shamo, 27, a student at Illinois State University who is at the Adam's Mark Hotel with three friends. "Our plan was to lay out on a sunny beach and get a tan."

Jeff Lloyd, 24, a law student on vacation from the University of Notre Dame with his classmate, Jim Pontrelli, couldn't quite place Anka.

"I've never heard the name," said Lloyd. "What does he sing?"

Well, Having My Baby was a hit in 1974.

If you knew that, you may want to try to get in Anka's show at 7 p.m. Saturday at Ruth Eckerd Hall, 1111 McMullen-Booth Road, Clearwater. Note: The concert is sold out, so check with the venue for last-minute cancellations or the newspaper for ticket sales.

But you can still get tickets to see Lightfoot. The 60-year-old folk singer best-known for his ballad the Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald, will take the stage at 8 p.m. Saturday. Tickets for his show are $29.75.

Here are a few other weekend activities students probably have little interest in:

The 22nd annual Bay Area Renaissance Festival:

Hear ye, hear ye, spring breakers probably have had enough of history, so a good place to hide out is the tiny English village of Puddleton on Piddle recreated on the grounds of Largo Central Park from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. every weekend through April 15.

Once you step through the gates of the site, you are transported back to the 16th century fantasy world, with wenches, a town crier, live jousts, jugglers, musicians, fire eaters, human chess matches, minstrels, maidens, peasants and fools.

It takes a cast of more than 100 performers to recreate the Old English village circa 1570 with its swing rides pushed by actors, pillory, chopping block and an executioner named Dragfoot.

There are psychics, hair-braiders and a busy marketplace with more than 130 shops selling everything from hand-crafted jewelry to furniture. Food vendors will sell soup in a bread bowl Scotch eggs, scones, turkey drumsticks and beer and wine.

Each weekend has a theme, and this weekend it's Irish Festival in honor of St. Patrick's Day. It features a Knight Wrap (11 a.m. in the children's realm; bar keeper's contest (1:30 p.m., New Gate Inn); hot potato toss (3 p.m., children's realm).

Largo Central Park is at 400 Central Park Drive, Largo. Admission is $12.95 for adults, $10.95 for seniors, and $5.95 for children ages 5-12 (children 4 and younger are free). For more information, call (727) 586-5423.

Spring training

Why not head to 6,106-seat Grant Field this weekend and catch a home game? Good seats are still available for the Toronto Blue Jays vs. Texas Rangers at 1:05 p.m. today at the field, 311 Douglas Ave., Dunedin. Tickets for the Jays/Yankees game at 1:05 Saturday aren't as plentiful, but you might get lucky.

There has only been one sell-out game this season at Grant Field, and that was when the Boston Red Sox came to town. Ken Carson, director of Florida operations, blames a weak Canadian dollar and leftover fan resentment stemming from the 1995 baseball strike.

Carson misses the spring breakers who seem to come to the games anymore.

"They're always fun," Carson said. "They get the wave going. It's a lot of fun."

Tickets cost $13, $11 and $9. For information, call (727) 733-0429.

If you're more of a Phillies fan, Philadelphia will play the Minnesota Twins at 1 p.m. today and the Cleveland Indians at 1 p.m. Saturday at 6,944-seat Jack Russell Stadium, 800 Phillies Drive, Clearwater.

Tickets cost $13, $11 and $10. For information, call (727) 442-8496.

Celtic Music and Dance

Celebrate St. Patrick's Day weekend with an evening of Celtic music and dance by the Golden Bough & the McGrath Irish Dancers at 7:30 p.m. Sunday at the Tarpon Springs Performing Arts Center, 324 Pine St., Tarpon Springs.

The Golden Bough trio uses a Celtic harp, accordions, tin whistles, violins, mandolins, and bodhrans to make a unique, yet traditional, Irish-Scottish sound.

Stepping to the music will be the McGrath Irish Dancers directed by All-Ireland Championship dancer Valerie Deam. The troupe is based in the San Francisco Bay area, and travels to step dance competitions all over the United States and Ireland.

Tickets cost $13 (center members and students pay $11). For information call (727) 942-5605.