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40 years of fun: Oldsmar festival kicks off today

The 40th anniversary of the city's longest running festival, Oldsmar Days & Nights, is set for this weekend.

The three-day festival, sponsored by the Oldsmar Chamber of Commerce and the city, drew more than 10,000 people to R.E. Olds Park last year for entertainment, a classic car show, a parade, road races and a carnival midway.

"We've stepped things up a bit this year because it's the 40th anniversary," said Kevin Gartland, president and CEO of the chamber. "We've added some new bands, but also kept some of the old favorites that people come out to see."

The event kicks off at 6 p.m. today with a repeat performance by the Dock Street Band, the group that opened the festival last year. The group hails from Cedar Key and plays classic rock 'n' roll.

The carnival midway opens at 5 p.m. today. Wristbands will be sold for $12 allowing unlimited rides until 11 p.m.

On Saturday, the day starts with the Rotary Club Armadillo Run, beginning at 7 a.m. Runners can choose from 10K, 5K or 1-mile events.

The Oldsmar Days parade winds its way through downtown beginning at 11 a.m. at the corner of State Street and St. Petersburg Drive, and ending at R.E. Olds Park.

More than 100 units will participate in the parade, Gartland said.

From 1:30 to 11 p.m., the sounds of bluegrass, R&B, beach music and rock 'n' roll will resonate from the park as a number of different bands take the stage.

The midway will be open from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. and there will be a classic Oldsmobile car show in the park.

On Sunday, the midway opens at noon and wristbands will also be available. The carnival rides will be open until 7 p.m.

The popular Wing Wars returns at 2 p.m., featuring tastes of chicken wings from 10 local restaurants including Lee Roy Selmon's and Ruby Tuesday, which are new to the contest this year. A panel of judges will select their favorite recipe and festivalgoers will be able to purchase wing samples and choose their favorite.

Rounding out Sunday afternoon will be a new addition to the festival, a performance by Bill "The Sauce Boss" Wharton and his band, The Ingredients, at 3:15 p.m.

Wharton, who inspired Jimmy Buffett to write the song, I Will Play for Gumbo, actually makes a pot of gumbo on the stage while the band performs blues music. At the conclusion of his set, Wharton serves gumbo to people in the audience.

Why should someone drive to Oldsmar for the event?

The answer is simple, according to Gartland.

"This is the best community festival at this end of the county," he said. "With 40 years under our belt, we've stood the test of time."

_ Julie Church can be reached at (727) 445-4229 or