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Septemberfest brings groups, residents closer

This weekend's Septemberfest celebration in Spring Hill featured live music by Wiley Fox and other local bands, kick-boxing, a car show and a flashy fireworks display.

But the more low-key non-profit organizations that participated lie at the heart of what the event is about for Elsie Logan, who started the Shady Hills neighborhood fest nine years ago to make social service agencies more accessible to area residents.

With spousal abuse, for instance, people won't come to a group if you start one, but they'll pick up a flyer at an event like this, Logan said. "To me, that's the number one most important thing."

Logan expected 6,000 to 7,000 festivalgoers Friday night and Saturday, up from the 5,000 who attended last year. And there also were more booths this weekend, with 115 vendors and community service organizations participating, compared to 100 last year.

Greg O'Connell of Spring Hill didn't have a "booth" per se, though his hearty green plants of varying textures lined up in rows on the ground and situated in the back of his truck were a big hit.

O'Connell's passion for the plants, which came from his personal collection, was evident when he described their characteristics to those who asked. And they were priced very low.

"There's no reason to jack the prices up," he said. "It's just a labor of love."

The horticulture included elephant ears, peace lilies and more unusual varieties of cacti and blooming plants, such as fragrant jasmine.

"That's my biggest advantage, is that I have such such a variety," he said.

Septemberfest also featured a variety of food, much of which was sold to benefit local groups.

Boy Scout Troop 91 of Shady Hills First United Methodist Church sold hamburgers and hot dogs, and coffee and doughnuts Saturday morning, to raise money for the 13-member troop's camping expenses and supplies.

"This is the main troop fundraiser for the year," said Denise Watson of Spring Hill.

The Hicks Road Community Initiative was another group tempting festivalgoers' palettes. Its menu included chicken dinners and turkey legs.

About half of the festival's participants, Logan estimated, were non-profit agencies. They included Hernando-Pasco Hospice, the Healthy Start Coalition and the PACE Center for Girls of Pasco County.

"That's the real point of Septemberfest," Logan said, "to bring these agencies into the community to get people the services they need."

Also among those at the festival Friday night were:

Doug and Jerri Edwards, Hudson; Jennifer VanTassel and her daughter, Ashley, Spring Hill; Warren and Mandy Dufour, with daughters Skyla and Shelby, Spring Hill; and William Twardokus and Lori Cameron, Port Richey.

Jennifer Stewart writes about social events and personalities in Pasco County. She can be reached in west Pasco at (727) 869-6231. Her e-mail address is jstewartsptimes.com.

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