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Fest has a blast with the past

Old-time sounds and Greek folk dancing will be among the highlights.

By LaRITA JACOBS, Times Correspondent
Published January 25, 2008

The Levendia Folk Dance Troupe from Tarpon Springs performed at the Glendi in Craig Park in 2004, and is bringing its Greek songs and dances to the Pinellas Folk Festival this year.
[Times photo (2004)]
[Heritage Village]
Junior docent Jacob Spatzer demonstrates old-fashioned games at the 2006 Folk Festival.

You'd never know it to look at them, but the Pleasant Family Old Time String Band's name started as a joke.

"There was some minor bickering going on and (bass player) Patsy Dollins joked, 'Aren't we the pleasant family?' and it stuck," says Largo resident and guitarist Kevin Donachy.

The five-member band will perform for audiences at Saturday's 15th annual Pinellas Folk Festival at Heritage Village in Largo.

"They are very engaging with a lot of audience involvement. There is always a crowd when they perform here," said Ellen Babb, Heritage Village historian and marketing director.

The comedic and interactive style of their folk performances made the band popular headliners at Cracker Country at the Florida State Fair for the past four years. Followers snap up their CDs of fiddle-playing, banjo-picking, old-time music.

In addition to Donachy and Dollins, the band features Lauren Mayeux on fiddle, Chris Frontiero on mandolin and Craig Seastead on banjo.

"It's the chemistry of the band," Donachy said. "The music is fun, the setting is wonderful and it's all about making people happy."

The Pleasant Family is one of many attractions at the festival. Musical acts include the Earthlings, a washboard band; Judy Barrett on Autoharp; the soothing hammered dulcimers of Simple Gifts; and a dozen or so more of Florida's best folk performers.

Amateur musicians are welcome to bring their own instruments and join in the ongoing bluegrass, folk music and gospel jam sessions.

Craft demonstrations such as chair-caning, blacksmithing and pine needle weaving are planned. Other family-friendly attractions include storytelling, games, a display of antique cars and plenty of refreshments.

Each year, the festival features dancers that highlight the folk culture of Pinellas County. This year's festival will showcase the Levendia Folk Dance Troupe from Tarpon Springs.

Babb said the troupe was organized in 1979 to preserve and promote the rich Greek tradition of song, dance and folklore.

"The performance is colorful and just amazing," Babb said. "This will be their first performance at Heritage Village."

If you go

Where to park

Parking is available at Walsingham and 119th Street, with a free shuttle to Heritage Village.

For information, call (727) 582-2123.

[Last modified January 24, 2008, 21:16:44]

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