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IT'S THE SEASON OF FUN

Get your appetite and your calendar ready. The 20th annual Taste of Clearwater is Tuesday, offering tasty treats from 50 local restaurants. And that kicks off a busy 10 weeks of happenings in Clearwater, with signature events like Jazz Holiday and Ironman combined with new events like a power boat race and a beach family festival. The period between now and Thanksgiving is shaping up to be one of the most action-packed times of the year, with something going on every weekend. And most of the events are free.

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Here's a week-by-week account of more than a dozen upcoming events:

Taste of Clearwater, 5 to 8 p.m. Tuesday in downtown's Harborview Center. Tickets are $18 in advance or $20 at the door, and that buys limitless samples from 50 restaurants and five beverage providers.

"There are a variety of dishes from American cuisine to more exotic fare - from hamburgers and spicy wings to sushimi and Thai food," said Sherri Callahan of the Clearwater Regional Chamber of Commerce. "The goal is to bring the community together for food and fun. It's an opportunity for local businesses to market their food through sampling and word of mouth."

The event includes a silent auction. For more information, call (727) 461-0011.

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Fourth Friday, 5:30-10 p.m. Sept. 25: The monthly street party in downtown Clearwater returns, kicking off the Jazz Holiday season with free performances by two local jazz acts, Level 10 and Jose Valentino, as well as appearances by Tampa pirate krewes. Two blocks of Cleveland Street will close for an expected 1,500-plus partygoers. Visit 4thFridayClearwater.com for details.

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Miles for Hope Charity Bike Tour and Run, Sept. 26 at Coachman Park: This fundraiser brings together cyclists, runners and walkers in several different events. Proceeds fund brain cancer research. For information, go to milesforhope.org or call (727) 647-6548.

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Powerboat race weekend, Oct. 2-4. Technically, it's called "the first Clearwater Super Boat Offshore National Championship and Festival." Sleek boats will race at speeds up to 140 mph from Pier 60 on a course about 21/2 miles to the north and back, about 200-300 yards offshore. The race on Sunday, Oct. 4, will be free, with thousands of spectators expected to line Clearwater Beach or watch from boats in the Gulf of Mexico.

Boats and pit crews will set up beginning Oct. 2 in Coachman Park, with racers checking out the course on Oct. 3. Parties, a free concert and fireworks are also planned. Go to clearwatersuperboat.com for more information.

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The Hispanic Heritage Festival, noon-10 p.m. Oct. 11 in Coachman Park, will feature music, food and drink concessions, inflatable rides and exhibitors.

Clearwater Jazz Holiday,Oct. 15-18 in Coachman Park, marks the 30th anniversary of this event. This year's headliners include the Neville Brothers, Al Jarreau, Chris Botti and Boney James. For information, visit clearwaterjazz.com or call (727) 461-5200.

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Clearwater Beach Family Fun Fest, Oct. 24-25 on the BeachWalk promenade, is a first-time event. It's an arts and crafts show with food and beer vendors, kids' games and entertainment. Proceeds benefit Tampa Bay Harvest, which collects food for the hungry. For details, go to www.FamilyFunFest.net or call (727) 394-1012.

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The Best of the Best Car Show on Nov. 1 at Bright House Networks Field benefits local radio host Mason Dixon's Christmas Wish Fund. For details, visit masondixonchristmaswishfund.com or call (813) 951-0073.

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Clearwater Veterans Appreciation Day, 2-6 p.m. Nov. 7 at Bright House Networks Field, features military displays, precision drill teams and exhibits of memorabilia. It's also free.

The Ironman World Championship 70.3 is coming Nov. 14, a date that many Clearwater Beach residents have already marked on their calendars because that's the day they won't want to drive anywhere.

A 56-mile bicycle route runs through Clearwater, Largo, Pinellas Park, Palm Harbor, Safety Harbor and East Lake. Pier 60 on Clearwater Beach is a good place to watch the swim, and the Pinellas County Courthouse and the Clearwater Memorial Causeway are good spots to watch parts of the bike and run.

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Christmas Under the Oaks on Nov. 15 in Coachman Park has grown over the years into a bustling arts and crafts show with more than 200 exhibitors. The Clearwater Junior Woman's Club sponsors it.

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The annual Festival of Trees, which runs Nov. 22-29, is moving to Westfield Countryside Mall this time after many years at the Harborview Center. It will fill the mall with dozens of artificial Christmas trees, each decorated by a different designer or civic group. The event has trees, wreaths and decorations for sale, plus crafts and kids' activities including Santa Claus. It's a benefit for the Upper Pinellas Association for Retarded Citizens.

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And finally, the annual Times Turkey Trot is once again on Thanksgiving, Nov. 26, in what has become a community tradition. It offers walks, runs and races through Clearwater, with live bands along the route. There's also a kickoff party the night before.

Mike Brassfield can be reached at brassfield@sptimes.com or (727) 445-4160.

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