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Sims Park event sizzles

By JENNIFER GOLDBLATT, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published July 1, 2002

NEW PORT RICHEY -- For four-year-old Cheyne McIlroy, Saturday's Independence Day celebration in Sims Park was all about winning.

The ringlet-headed preschooler had conquered the Wiffle ball toss, the Lucky Duck game and the Moon Bounce in the first hour she spent at the Main Street Blast.

Once she'd won three stuffed animals, she was ready to see the music concert.

"I like to dance," pronounced McIlroy, who was in town visiting her grandmother, Joyce Buczak, 65.

She was one of about 2,000 people who swarmed the city's downtown on the sweltering Saturday afternoon to take part in the Main Street Blast. The second-annual event was produced by Greater New Port Richey Main Street Inc., a nonprofit group dedicated to reviving downtown.

The pre-Fourth of July celebration included classic music, festival food, carnival games, a fire sale and a classic car show. In the evening, it culminated in a fireworks display and performance by Blood, Sweat and Tears featuring David Clayton-Thomas.

Laura Turner, executive director of the Main Street group, said she was pleased with the turnout, and that Friday night's storm hadn't spilled over into the event.

"Having activities for everyone really rounded out the event," said Turner. She was expecting an additional 5,500 people for the evening concert and fireworks.

In the afternoon, a crowd of people grabbed folding chairs, shaved ice and spots in the shade to hear the Bendys play such classic tunes as Go Johnny Go and The Rose.

Down by the Pithlachascotee River, bargain hunters meandered through the fire sale, where individuals and local nonprofits were hawking everything from cowboy boots to Herbalife Body Toning Creme.

And the goods were going fast.

In the first few hours of the sale, retirees Camelia and Harold Brust had sold off most of what didn't fit into their new house in New Port Richey. A chair, a feather bed, kids furniture and a few rugs were snatched up immediately.

"The rest goes to Goodwill," Camelia Brust said.

Mike Quinones, 32, of Port Richey was resigned to envious browsing over at the classic car show that lined Orange Lake. He gazed longingly at a bright yellow 1929 Model A Ford coupe, for sale for just $32,000.

"I've always been big on classic cars," said Quinones, a carpenter. "I love the speed and the power. If I could save enough to get one, I probably would."

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