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Foods from around the world and homegrown fun return to St. Joan of Arc.

It's definitely about the food.

American favorites such as cheeseburgers and fries, Italian staples such as pizza and sausage and peppers, Polish stuffed cabbage, German bratwurst, Greek gyros, Cuban sandwiches.

Name your ethnic food of choice, and you'll find the aroma drifting through the air, drawing folks throughout the neighborhood and beyond.

But it's also about the fun: midway rides, carnival games and continuous entertainment.

And this year there are more rides than ever.

Whatever the draw, the crowds began arriving Thursday for the grand opening of the 19th annual Ethnic Festival at St. Joan of Arc Catholic Church, which continues today, Saturday and Sunday on the church grounds.

"This year we have about 25 midway rides," said event chairman Tony Del Vecchio. "There are rides for all ages - little kids, teenagers, even the adults."

Del Vecchio said many of the performers return each year, eager to entertain the large crowds that the family-friendly event draws.

This year's festival brings back many familiar faces, such as singers Daniela Serricchio and Lucy Warner, the Tapping Dolls, and the Center Stage and Center Company performers.

This year's entertainment lineup also includes a performance by cast members from the Show Palace Dinner Theatre, Shazadi & Jewels of the Desert Belly Dance Troupe, the Klassic Kountry Kloggers, the Spring Hill Acoustic Guitar Club, a Zumba demonstration, the Just Us duo and Dragon's Dojo, as well as youth performers, such as Diana's Dance Express, Tina's Dance Academy and the Chocachatti Hip-Hop Dancers.

The event attracts between 20,000 and 25,0000 visitors each year. Its popularity can be attributed to its family-oriented atmosphere, local entertainment and the variety of ethnic delicacies cooked up by volunteers, according to organizers.

Its success, Del Vecchio says, is due to the hard work of more than 200 volunteers who help pull it all together.

"It boils down to community," Del Vecchio said. "We're really blessed with the kind of people that we have and their volunteerism. Without them, we couldn't make this work."

Phyllis Day can be reached at or (352) 754-6101.

19th annual Spring Hill Ethnic Festival

Where: St. Joan of Arc Catholic Church, 13485 Spring Hill Drive, Spring Hill

When: 5 to 10 p.m. today, noon to 10 p.m. Saturday, noon to 8 p.m. Sunday

Cost: Free admission and parking