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A Festival of OLD FOLK

Lee Paulet, 59 considers himself "an endangered species," someone born and raised in Tampa.

During his boyhood, he says, the freckled-faced redhead could grab his fishing pole and walk five minutes in any direction and catch a bass.

Later, he and his dad would put the fish into a tub full of water and Paulet would play with them as they swam around. In the evening, his mother would cook them for dinner.

Of course those days are long gone. But Paulet, a singer/songwriter, will try to give others a chance to experience the Tampa Bay area the way he remembers it during the 11th annual Pinellas Folk Festival at Heritage Village on Saturday.

"There is a whole generation of people who think Florida is Disney World with mechanical animals and mechanical friends," said Paulet, music coordinator for the event for the past nine years. "This festival is about tradition. We are celebrating the heritage of life (a century ago)."

And life back then revolved around the kind of nonstop, downhome entertainment the festival offers, including folk bands, antique cars, ethnic dancing, historic home tours and Southern-style food such as barbecue chicken and ribs.

Thousands of people attend the event every year "because they want to experience the roots of this area," said Ellen Babb, historian and marketing coordinator for Heritage Village.

Working exhibits are an integral part of the festivities.

Experts from the Embroiderer's Guild of America, the Largo Cracker Quilters and the Pinellas Weavers' Guild among others will demonstrate their distinct crafts.

"The sheep-to-shawl is always popular," Babb said. "Families and kids like to see what they consider an animal getting a haircut. The kids ask, "Are (the sheep) cold? Does it hurt?' "

This year, one sheep will be shorn, if it cooperates. One year, a sheep was not in the mood for a shave and gave its handlers a hard time, Babb said with a laugh.

The festival was created to showcase local artists and musicians and has grown from there, Babb said.

Musical performances on four stages include Suzanne Boyer-Haley, Outrageous Fortune, Mark and Linda Fackeldey, Banjoes Unlimited, the Knot Whole Quartet, Sorrows Away, Brendan Nolan, Mountain Memories Bluegrass, Frank Thomas, Bobby Hicks, Storeebrooke, Bobert Brown, and the Exum Angel Band.

East meets West in dance with students from the Shreyas _ An Expression of Dance institute and the Beverly Hillbilly Cloggers, and to close the day, dance to the contra music of Leather Soles.

Also, for the kids, there will be the Earthlings Washboard Band, along with the village's popular Mercantile Old Time String Band and Appalachian lap dulcimers and hammered dulcimers.

There will be sound reinforcements but no amplifiers to enhance the sound.

"What our festival strives to do is present music the way it was presented a century ago," said Paulet. (Paulet is married to Betsy Bolger-Paulet, a staff writer for the St. Petersburg Times.)

And you don't have to just sit back and listen to the tunes, you can participate in a jam circle.

"People can bring their own guitars, banjos, mandolins and fiddles," said Paulet. "One year, we even had a guy who brought a tuba."

_ Eileen Schulte can be reached at (727) 445-4153 or schultesptimes.com.

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