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New Orleans jazz, opera and comedy in Tarpon Springs this weekend

TARPON SPRINGS

This city welcomes the lazy, crazy days of summer with an ambitious weekend of entertainment beginning tonight. The lineup includes a New Orleans jazz parade and concert, a choral concert by New Century Opera, a performance of Mozart's Titus and a deliciously malicious comedy Hate Mail.

"This is our summer solstice weekend and we wanted to make it extra special and provide a little something for everyone," said Kathleen Monahan, the city's cultural and civic services director.

The events are part of Tarpon Springs' fourth annual Summer Solstice Festival of the Performing Arts, a marathon of theatrical shows, concerts and other entertainment scheduled through Aug. 24.

New to this year's festival is a celebration of Big Easy culture featuring the Hot 8 Brass Band of New Orleans. Hot 8 has performed across the country, throughout Europe and annually at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival. The band has been featured in Spike Lee films and has helped to bring music and instruments to communities across the Gulf Coast in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

On Saturday morning, join Hot 8 as it leads a traditional "second line" flash parade through the streets of Tarpon Springs.

For the uninitiated, this is a slow-moving parade modeled after a New Orleans-style funeral procession, only there's no coffin, mourners or cemetery visit. Jazz funerals trace their roots back to the 19th century, when African-American processions consisted of a "first line" made up of close friends and family, and a "second line," consisting of those who joined in along the way.

At 9 a.m., breakfast sandwiches will be served and children's maskmaking activities will take place at the Union Academy Family Center. The procession follows at 11 a.m. and meanders along Grosse Avenue to the Tarpon Springs Public Library, where more jazz and activities will take place.

Later, at 8 p.m., Hot 8 brings its funky jazz sounds to the stage of the Tarpon Springs Performing Arts Center. Tickets are $26, $23 for members and students. Before the show, the Zante Café serves up complimentary tastes of Cajun jambalaya to ticket holders.

"It will be an authentic New Orleans experience," said Monahan.

Correspondent Terri Bryce Reeves can be reached at treeves@tampabay.rr.com.

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