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Families gobble up the Fourth

Across Pasco County Friday, people wore their patriotism on hats, T-shirts, socks, neckties, umbrellas, sunglasses and just about anything that could carry red, white and blue.

Hank Fischman, 81, danced to karaoke with his wife, Dorothy, at the Veterans of Foreign wars Randolph Ford Post 7845 in Port Richey.

"We're celebrating what a wonderful country we are and that's it," he said of the afternoon's festivities there.

Fischman, of the Army's 25th Infantry Division, remembers the rising sun on the wings of Japanese Zeros as they flew over his barracks at Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941.

He and many other veterans enjoyed free beer, food and dance music at their post on Stone Road.

Nearby, Glenn Holmberg and his family swallowed the seeds and all during a watermelon eating contest in the parking lot of Gulf View Square mall.

"I'm going to regret this after awhile," he said after beating 17 other contestants, including his two teenage sons, Josh and Nathan, and his 9-year-old daughter, Kirsten.

"Aw, my stomach hurts," said Josh, who took second place.

The family planned to go home for a Fourth of July dinner and return to the mall later for the beauty pageant, live music and fireworks.

"There's a pork roast in the oven and we're going to make pulled pork sandwiches," said Holmberg's wife, Michelle.

Also at the mall was an arts and crafts fair and vendors selling hot dogs, hamburgers, shaved ice, Jamaican jerk chicken and cold beer.

Ana Bel, 37, was selling Cuban sandwiches with her family. They run La Cubanita in the mall's food court.

"I think it's wonderful because it's a free country," she said of the Fourth of July.

Bel came to the United States from Cuba in 1980 during the Mariel boat lift.

"Want to take a chance?" Russell Aaron asked people at a nearby booth. "One string for two bucks, three strings for five."

Aaron ran one of several games of luck and skill set up by Denny's Concessions.

Kids pulled strings for points that could earn them stuffed bears, frogs, birds and Spongehead Bobs.

On the other side of Pasco at the county fairgrounds, folks carried lawn chairs to ready themselves to enjoy the day at Dade City's Sparklebration.

Eventgoers were treated to live entertainment, games and a classic car show. The highlight of the day was the fireworks show scheduled to blast off at dusk.

Aiyana Good, 3, was eager to see the "boom-booms".

Others walked around and sampled the fare. The hickory smell of the barbecue pit beckoned some over to the food vendors. The community's nonprofit organizations hawked barbecued ribs, fresh watermelon and smoked turkey drumsticks.

Vickie West, 49, and her family enjoyed the live music.

"It's nice because we get to see some people we know perform," she said. "All the entertainment is local."

A crowd gathered to watch The Christones perform God Bless the U.S.A. and other patriotic songs. Some sang along. The kids got a show, too.

Some sat cross-legged on the grass to watch magician Paul Lembo.

"It's a real hometown style event," said Cherri Good of Dade City. "It's a far cry from the big city. I feel at home. It's nice to get out and see people and talk."

Glenn Holmberg of Port Richey holds up his hands as he finishes his last piece of watermelon to win the watermelon eating contest at Gulf View Square as part of the Independence Day activities Friday. Holmberg was competing against his two sons and a daughter in the contest. There were 18 big eaters in the competition.

Twelve-year-old Ashley Devivo of Largo chows down Friday during the watermelon eating contest at the mall in Port Richey. Also at the mall was an arts and crafts fair and vendors selling hot dogs, hamburgers, shaved ice, Jamaican jerk chicken and cold beer. So, for the most part, food was not a problem _ unless there was too much of it.