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THE WIZARD OF WHIMSY

Safety Harbor will salute Theodor Seuss Geisel, a seriously talented creative force.

Hang on to your red and white hats - the Cat in the Hat is back and this time he's bringing his Christmas-stealing friend, the Grinch.

At 10 a.m. Saturday, the mischievous anthropomorphs will lead a sidewalk parade along Main Street from Syd Entel Galleries to City Hall. There, Mayor Andy Steingold will hand them the keys to the city and proclaim it Dr. Seuss Day in "Safety Harborville."

After the parade, readings from Dr. Seuss books will take place and a special reception will be held that eveningat Syd Entel Galleries.

"It will be a very Seussical day," said Susan Benjamin, owner of Syd Entel Galleries.

All the fantasy fun will kick off the exhibit "The Art of Dr. Seuss: A Retrospective and National Touring Exhibition." It chronicles the life, art and creativity of Theodor Seuss Geisel, pen name Dr. Seuss.

The show features limited-edition signed and numbered lithographs, serigraphs and sculptures reproduced from Geisel's original drawings and paintings. Works in the exhibition have been curated from public and private collections, including the University of California San Diego archives, the Lyndon Baines Johnson Presidential Library and the Dr. Seuss estate.

Featured are rare and never-seen-before art from the 1920s to 1990s.

The exhibit runs through Oct. 10.

Oh, the things you will see! Inside this gallery!

A 5-foot bronze sculpture of Sam-I-Am, holding up the detested green eggs and ham.

Dr. Seuss' early works of poetry, advertising, World War II political cartoons and magazine covers.

His collection of Unorthodox Taxidermy.

Pages from his "adult book," The Seven Lady Godivas.

His Secret Art - wildly imaginative oil paintings created at night for his personal satisfaction.

Other works from his personal archives.

Artist representative Jeffrey Schuffman will be on hand Saturday to provide insights into Geisel's creativity and his impact on American culture.

But for now, here's a quick rundown.

Geisel (1904 to 1991) began his career as an editorial cartoonist in the 1920s.

He was best known for his 44 children's books, which employed metered rhyme and whimsical illustrations, sometimes in just a couple of colors.

A publisher once bet him that he couldn't write a book using 50 words or less, so he created Green Eggs and Ham. It is the third-best-selling book in the English language.

Geisel also created more than 400 World War II political cartoons, wrote and animated films for the war effort, and created hundreds of advertisements for products like Flit, a bug spray, and Narragansett Beer.

Some may be surprised to learn that he sculpted a line of animals in a collection called Unorthodox Taxidermy. The Andulovian Grackler has a huge beak and messy hair, and the Mulberry Street Unicorn sports a huge black horn.

They were fashioned out of beaks, horns and antlers of deceased animals his father brought home while working at a zoo.

"He was so talented in so many aspects," Benjamin said. "He was an illustrator, a linguist, a poet, an animator, a sculptor and a brilliant oil painter."

Have a Diversions idea? Reach Terri Bryce Reeves at treeves@tampabay.rr.com.

Fast facts

If you go

(Or as Dr. Seuss wrote, "You're off to great places! Today is your day!

Your mountain is waiting. So ... get on your way!)

What: A sidewalk parade led by Seuss characters kicks off an exhibit at Syd Entel Galleries, "The Art of Dr. Seuss: A Retrospective and National Touring Exhibition." The exhibit continues through Oct. 10.

When, where: Saturday. The parade departs at 10 a.m. from the galleries down Main Street to City Hall. A reading of Dr. Seuss books from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. and a reception from 6 to 8 p.m. are at Syd Entel Galleries, 247 Main St., Safety Harbor.

Gallery Hours: 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday-Friday, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday.

Admission: Free.

For information: Call (727) 725-1808.

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