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A hip parade

(ran PC edition of PASCO TIMES)

Sarah Fulmer is in charge of one of the "floats" in today's Fourth of July parade in Lutz.

It will consist of her family's garden tractor and three trailers, decorated patriotically.

"We're going to make a train out of the trailers," said Sarah, 10, whose family moved recently from Lutz to Lakeland.

Riding in the first trailer will be Sarah's white ducks, Sticky and Tweety. In the second: her hens, Henrietta and Firebelly. In the third: her guinea pigs, Eliza and Alena, plus Sarah's six rabbits, whose names are pending.

It may not be the stuff of Gasparilla, but Sarah's float will be considered precious in today's Lutz parade _ 1{ miles of pure Americana open to anyone.

If past is prologue, the parade also will feature Cub Scouts, belly dancers, politicians, dogs and surprise entrants who show up just as the showcase vehicle, an antique fire truck named Susie, starts to roll.

The parade's folksy appeal annually draws thousands of people, many of whom come from outside Lutz to enjoy a small-town parade.

On Lutz's biggest day of the year, the activities also include a pair of 8 a.m. foot races, a cake-baking contest and auction, a barbecue chicken lunch, a proclamation of secession from Hillsborough County and Florida, and the climax of a fundraising contest to elect Lutz's guv'na, a comic chief of state.

For the organizers, it's a celebration not only of American independence, but of Lutz's small-town traditions.

The parade, for example, begins next to the Oscar Cooler Youth Sports Complex, built out of an orange grove 29 years ago, entirely by volunteers. On Lutz-Lake Fern Road, it roughly follows the route of so-called Pea Vine Railroad, which was threaded through swamps in 1909 to connect Lutz with Odessa.

The parade then passes between First United Methodist Church of Lutz, founded in 1912, and the Lutz Volunteer Fire Department, the community's 52-year-old emblem of rural self-sufficiency.

And the parade's home stretch flanks the replica of a 1911 train depot, Lutz Junction, that gave the emerging town its name. The depot was rebuilt three years ago as an all-volunteer project.

"We want to keep Lutz a community," said Auralee Buckingham, chief organizer of the celebration. "We want to keep it a place where people know each other and say "Hello' to each other."

Yet the parade will have plenty of national symbolism too.

It will include the Fort Brooke Society, Children of the American Revolution, and a group of World War II re-enactors.

The Lutz Patriots, dozens of flag-wavers who came together during the Iraq war, are planning a float for all active military personnel who show up in uniform, said Barbara Mueller, one of the Patriots' organizers.

"We want to honor them," she said.

They are among several first-time groups joining this year's parade.

An eight-member Tampa clown troupe, Koz-mo's Professional Entertainment, is headed for Lutz after marching in Brandon's parade in previous years, said Thomas Theriaque, the manager. And two businesses new in Lutz, Bay Cities Bank, and Beef"O'Brady's, signed on to enter units.

Of course, the three candidates for guv'na will be in the parade, as well as current guv'na Brett Montegny, who will be Grand Marshal.

This year's candidates are Allan Himes, a scoutmaster and Sertoman; Joni Cagle, a leader in the Lutz Leagueretts; and Sondra Guffey, a newcomer to Heritage Harbor.

They're in a competition that has become increasingly lucrative for community projects. Last year's candidates raised $18,000, of which Montegny raised $8,500.

The money has helped pay for:

_ A new fire truck for the Volunteer Fire Department.

_ Pavilions at the Lutz Nature Park.

_ Maintenance of the Lutz train depot.

_ Elementary school playground equipment.

With that in mind, the Lutz Civic Association, which organizes the guv'na competition, has unveiled a hillbilly-style voting booth for use today. The "Lutz Guv'na Buy-A-Vote-A-Tron" features slots for dropping money, and hanging laundry instead of hanging chads.

Sarah Fulmer said she, too, plans to spice up the guv'na competition by running her menagerie as last-minute candidates.

"All the animals except the guinea pigs are going to run for guv'na," Sarah said.

And the guinea pigs?

"They're groupies," she said.

_ Bill Coats can be reached at (813) 269-5309 or coatssptimes.com.

Joni Cagle, 43, lives in Willow Pond and teaches disabled children at Hunter's Green Elementary School. She's supported by the Lutz Leagueretts and the Lutz Volunteer Fire Department.

Best promise: To home-school every child in Lutz, and bring the next Super Bowl to the Lutz Chiefs field.

Sondra Guffey, 40, lives in Heritage Harbor and is a television and marketing consultant.

Best promise: To turn Lutz into a ski resort, with a Road Kill Hall of Fame.

Allan Himes, 43, lives on Lake Allen and is president of A&H Electrical Services. He's supported by the Lutz-Land O'Lakes Woman's Club, the Lutz Millenium Sertoma Club and Boy Scout Troop 12, where he's scoutmaster.

Best promise: To raise more money than Cagle and Guffey combined

The Guv'na Oath of Office

(The guv'na-elect raises his or her left hand and places the right hand on the "sacred book," Dr. Seuss' Green Eggs and Ham.)

Will you be Guv'na in the rain or in the sun?

Will you be Guv'na on Highway 41?

Will you be Guv'na on a lake?

Will you be Guv'na with a rake?

Will you be Guv'na in an orange tree?

Will you be Guv'na who will water ski?

Will you be Guv'na in the light or in the dark?

Will you be Guv'na in Nye Park?

Will you be Guv'na here or there?

Will you be Guv'na everywhere (in Lutz, that is)?

Do you hereby promise to the people of the Statehood of Lutz to accept this sacred oath, to rally to their causes (provided they are trivial) and preside over community functions (if you are invited)?

Repeat after me:

Guv'na, Guv'na I will be, in beautiful Lutz _ for all to see!

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