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BLUES, BREWS CLOSE TO HOME

Bluesapalooza brings out locals who appreciate two days of entertainment in their own back yard.

If the Hernando County Parks and Recreation Department was looking for a perfect patron at its Bluesapalooza festival this weekend, it would have found him in Keith Steele.

Steele likes beer and loves blues music. He drove 60 miles from Tampa on Saturday to listen to guitarist Sean Chambers, one of his favorite acts. Sitting in his lawn chair and sipping a cold one, Steele waited as sound system techs made last-minute adjustments.

"Other than the heat, it's not been that bad," he said. "I think they would have done better to start a little later."

The Recreation Department's first two-day music festival was not without hitches.

Although gates opened at noon, early arrivals had little to do except to try and find a shady spot at Anderson Snow Park until the entertainment began. An activity zone for children that was also supposed to open at noon didn't get going until after 3. And the first scheduled local band never showed.

The bulk of the crowd didn't arrive until just before 5, when name acts - the Shaun Rounds Band, the WhoDoos and Chambers - were due to play.

Recreation manager Harry Johnson estimated Saturday's crowd at 970. The festival concluded Sunday.

Organizers of the event were looking to repeat the success of a venture in April at Linda Pedersen Park, along the Hernando coast, that featured several reggae bands. That one-day event netted $8,324 in profits, which came primarily from the sale of alcohol.

Spring Hill resident Vicki Simons said she appreciated the county's initiative in sponsoring such music events.

"There are a lot of people who are tired of having to go to Tampa to find something to do," she said. "This shows that local people will support something that's fun and family-oriented. I hope they do more of it."

Parks and Recreation director Pat Fagan hopes the success of the two events will help persuade county commissioners to plan future events, which are designed in part to help raise money for the Parks and Recreation Department.

"It's a building process," Fagan said. "What we learn from this event will make the next ones better."

Logan Neill can be reached at (352) 848-1435 or lneill@sptimes.com.

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