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Celebrate the art of being a Southerner

Come explore Tampa's rich southern heritage at this weekend's first Southern Cultural Festival.

By EVE HOSLEY-MOORE
© St. Petersburg Times
published April 12, 2002


TAMPA - In the hustle and bustle of zigzagging traffic and tall city buildings, it's easy to forget Tampa has anything to do with the South. The deluge of northerners and tourists, urban sprawl and industrialization has taken emphasis away from Florida's Southern agrarian heritage.

But the remaining citrus and strawberry farms and grassy pastures in and around Hillsborough County speak volumes: The life and culture of the South is alive and well, says Bart Siegel, Tampa businessman and organizer of this weekend's first Southern Cultural Festival.

This three-day event celebrates and explores Tampa's rich, southern, multicultural history, paying special attention to Spanish immigrant, Tampa pioneer and confederate soldier Joseph Robles, who founded Tampa Heights.

It's also a chance to hear musicians from several northern Hillsborough schools. The Adams Middle School Jazz Band, the Gaither High Barbershop Harmonizers and Wharton High's Varsity Singers all will perform on Saturday.

''For some reason 'South' is a dirty word,'' says Siegel. ''For many it stands for slavery and Civil War.''

''But (the South) is a tremendously diverse cultural basin,'' he says. ''It's unfortunate that four years of war now defines hundreds of years of southern history.''

Siegel and other organizers want to dispel the negative stigma with art, information and, of course, food.

They invite guests to explore Southern and African art at Saturday's Open Air Market. Check out a living history re-enactment and see the car dubbed ''General Lee,'' featured on the 1980s television show Dukes of Hazzard.

Southern landscape painter Robert Butler and two of his artist children will be giving demonstrations, as will other artists. Live bluegrass and southern bands entertain all day at the family-friendly event.

''Southern culture is not all slavery. It's a historical fact that blacks are a part of the South in a positive way,'' says John Frierson, owner of the African American Museum of Art, 1711 W Kennedy Blvd. ''We want (people) to see Southern culture entails more than the Civil War era, more than indentured slavery and servitude.''

Carved wooden artifacts from his museum will be on display.

A Jewish boy from New Jersey, Siegel says his fascination with Southern history was borne of his marriage to Lunelle, a fifth generation Floridian and daughter of the Confederacy.

''The South is a multicultural melting pot of Jews, African-Americans, Native-Americans and Spaniards,'' he says.

Proceeds will benefit the renovation of historic Glover School in Bealsville, just outside of Plant City.

A three-day family festival celebrating ''all things southern,'' staged at Channelside in the 600 block of Channelside Drive, downtown Tampa.

SOUTHERN CULTURAL FESTIVAL

A three-day family festival celebrating "all things southern," staged at Channelside in the 600 block of Channelside Drive, downtown Tampa.

TODAY

7 p.m.: Special showing of Gone With the Wind. Channelside Cinemas. Admission, $10, includes dessert buffet and trivia quiz.

SATURDAY

Throughout the day: African art exhibit, on-site painting by Florida landscape artist Robert Butler and sculpture by raku artist Andreas Goff, juried Corvette show, barbecue, cigar smoking.

10-10:20 a.m.: Varsity Singers of Wharton High School

10:30-10:45 a.m. Adams Middle School Jazz Band

11-11:40 a.m.: The Vision and the Reflections from Riverview High School

11:55 a.m.-12:15 p.m.: Jazz Show Choir from Eisenhower Middle School

12:30-12:50 p.m.: Barbershop Harmonizers from Gaither High School

1-1:15 p.m.: Jazz Band of East Bay Sr. High School

1:20-1:50 p.m.: Ballast Point Baptist Church Choir

2-2:30 p.m.: Tampa Bay Winds, southern symphonic music

2:35-2:50 p.m.: Barbershop Quartet from Gaither

3-3:45 p.m.: The Southsiders, country music

3:50-4:30 p.m.: Mr. Goldhammer's Bluegrass Band

7 p.m.: Latam Restaurant, Centro Asturiano, 1913 Nebraska Ave., hosts a dinner honoring Tampa pioneer and confederate soldier Joseph Robles. Tickets, $20 adult, $10 children. Call (813) 831-3849 for information.

SUNDAY

1:30 p.m.: Bus tour of Tampa War Era historic sites. Ceremony at Joseph Robles' grave in Woodlawn Cemetery. Tickets, $15 advance purchase suggested. Call (813) 839-5153.

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