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Putting the pop in Pasco festivities

The Sparklebration's big draw is still the evening pyrotechnics. But an eclectic mix of entertainment is part of the fun.

By CHASE SQUIRES, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published July 3, 2002


DADE CITY -- The sky over east Pasco is set to explode in color and sound Thursday with the community's annual Fourth of July Sparklebration festival at the Pasco County Fairgrounds.

Organizer Kathy Britton said she expects the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11 will project a deeper sense of patriotism and appreciation for the freedoms citizens enjoy.

"I think people will feel that patriotism more than ever," Britton said. "It's something everyone is aware of."

The annual festival and its collection of musical acts, magicians and festival foods has grown beyond a nighttime fireworks show.

The event this year opens at 4 p.m., with a classic car show, antique John Deere tractors, a Tampa Bay Devil Rays baseball display and games for children.

The festival also features tae kwon do demonstrations, music, magician Joey Armond, cowboy poetry, entertainment on three stages, "Yo-Yo Man" Rick Osborne -- "He's awesome," Britton said -- and Clifford the Big Red Dog.

"It just goes and goes until it gets dark, and then we have the fireworks," Britton said.

And as visitors take in the sights, they also can take in a variety of fair food at a food court run entirely by nonprofit agencies.

An array of politicians are usually around the grounds meeting voters, and in an election year, Britton said she expects plenty of officials and would-be officials will be shaking hands and sharing their views.

The biggest draw still, she said, is always the fireworks that go off at dusk.

"The word is out," she said. "Last year, it was just awesome to sit there and hear the oohs and ahhs. It was an awesome display. Pyrotechnico is improving on last year's display. I don't know how they can, but they say they will."

Britton said several local businesses, including title sponsor Jarrett Ford, stepped forward to help produce the event. But sponsors still are needed to defray the costs at every level, from $25 to $250.

And Britton said the Rotary Club is aware that many visitors avoid the crowded scene by parking along the roadsides around the fairgrounds. She said the club doesn't discourage that, but urges residents to remember that admissions help pay for the show. Even after the fireworks, it wouldn't hurt to drop a donation in the mail, she said.

If you go

Gates open for Sparklebration at 4 p.m. Thursday at the Pasco County Fairgrounds on State Road 52 in Dade City. Parking is $5, and adult admission is $2. Children younger than 13 are admitted free. To mail a donation, send checks to Dade City Rotary Charities, P.O. Box 44, Dade City, FL 33526. The Internet site is www.sparklebration.org.

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