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Festival delights eyes, lips

The Homosassa Arts, Crafts and Seafood Festival had all the right things going its way this weekend: perfect weather, delicious food, great art and Old Florida charm.

Now in its 27th year, the festival drew a huge crowd, estimated at 20,000 people, over its two-day run. The visitors came from throughout Citrus County predominantly, but many came from Hernando and Pasco counties.

Wherever they came from, it seemed that oak-lined streets of the festival seemed to be the perfect place for a stroll to admire and purchase arts. Of course, the trip had to be topped off with a visit to the seafood court.

As the noon hour approached both Saturday and Sunday, the smell of shrimp and grouper frying on the grill was simply irresistible. All 14 vendors, including the Misty River Restaurant, which was the only local restaurant participating this year, served thousands of meals. Among the offerings were shrimp-kebobs, grilled grouper, fried shrimp and clam chowder in a bread bowl.

To many, the festival just wouldn't be the same without the seafood.

"This is Homosassa, and this is where the great seafood is," said Joy Springer of Beverly Hills, as she headed to a hay bale, which served as a bench, to eat a lunch of fried shrimp.

The festival also had an impressive array of exhibitors, many of whom were geared for the holidays. Shoppers purchased holiday wreaths and decorations, along with wall hangings and paintings.

"You can't find this kind of artwork just anywhere. You have to go to the festivals," said Jan Burns of Spring Hill, who bought a wreath decorated in warm fall colors.

But the festival isn't just for art and seafood lovers. It is a major fundraiser for the Homosassa Civic Club.

"We raised $10,000 last year for the various organizations we support," said Terry Ziglar, president of the civic club and this year's festival chairman.

Among the recipients are Homosassa Elementary School, which received $2,300 last year, a $500 donation to the Boys and Girls Clubs and a $2,000 scholarship, which is awarded yearly.

Other organizations which benefit are the Young Marines, the Boy Scouts, the Homosassa Public Library and the Homosassa Fire Department.

The club also uses the money to buy holiday food baskets for the needy.

"Hey, any time tiny little old Homosassa can raise this much money on a yearly basis, you know we're doing pretty good," Ziglar said.