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Seafood fest: hot time in park

The Cotee River Seafood Festival attracted a large crowd to Sims Park despite temperatures in the 90s during the weekend.

By MATTHEW WAITE, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published May 13, 2002


photo
[Times photo: Lance Rothstein]
A plate loaded with seafood is passed to a customer at the booth for Hammerheads Seafood & Grill of St. Pete Beach on Sunday during the Cotee River Seafood Festival and Boat Show in Sims Park in New Port Richey.
NEW PORT RICHEY -- While the music was supposed to melt people's blues away, the too-hot-to-be-May heat did just nicely during this weekend's Cotee River Seafood Festival and Time Warner Boat Show in downtown New Port Richey.

With temperatures going over 90 degrees both days, the grass under the shade trees was covered with people.

And it was good to be selling ice cream.

"This is absurd," said a sweating Bruce Davies, underneath the vendor tent where he was selling ice cream with Vickie Thompson and Annie Davies. "People say it's not any hotter, we're just getting older."

"Honey, I'm a lot older than you are and it's hot," Annie Davies said jokingly.

In between live blues music up on the stage, hot patrons would walk up, drip sweat and take away ice cream in plastic cups -- no cones. The frozen stuff melts too fast for cones.

"Ice cream does have a tolerance level," Bruce Davies said.

About 11,000 people were estimated to have come out for the festival in Sims Park -- more than last year, but fewer than anticipated.

"The heat is keeping some people indoors," said Laura Turner, the executive director of Greater New Port Richey Main Street, who put on the event.

But the event went well for the second year in a row, Turner said. Last year, the seafood fest and boat show was selected as the most outstanding special event in Florida.

This year, the blues music was expanded to two days, and Turner said the musicians were happy with that. Many knew each other from other shows and stuck around to play with other musicians.

But just because it is hot this year doesn't mean there are plans to move the festival to earlier in the year.

Turner said people are starting to remember and plan for the festival during Mother's Day weekend.

"But just 5 to 10 degrees makes all the difference," she said.

Not to Martha Obarski of Bellmawr, N.J. In town for vacation, she said it was 50 degrees back home on Sunday. One of her accessories for a stroll through the festival: a snow cone, crushed ice and fruit flavoring. "It helps," she said.

-- Staff writer Matthew Waite can be reached in west Pasco at 869-6247 or (800) 333-7505, ext. 6247. His e-mail address is waite@sptimes.com.

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