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    Window of opportunity

    With no less than three festivals going on in the area this weekend, art lovers and seafood lovers can have their fill.

    By EILEEN SCHULTE

    © St. Petersburg Times, published March 2, 2001


    Think of Safety Harbor's 12th annual Seafood Festival with its doo wop band, custom rope sandal booth and seemingly endless nautical buffet as a sort of mini-cruise without ever leaving dry land.

    "It's a chance to take an island holiday with no bags to pack," said Lois Spencer, the organizer of the event.

    She said it will offer the same tropical feel, a water view and plenty of food, including fancy cakes, shrimp, fried calamari, huge captain's platters -- "you name it," she said.

    However, one form of seafood -- the raw kind -- won't be offered, Spencer said.

    "We're not doing sushi," she said.

    The seafood festival is just one of three notable outdoor events taking place this weekend in the mid- and north Pinellas County area offering a variety of food, antiques and art.

    If you pace yourself, you could attend all three.

    Maybe you could start at the 24th annual All Children's Hospital Art Festival & Benefit Auction sponsored by the Seminole Branch of All Children's Hospital Guild Saturday and Sunday at Largo Central Park. It will feature entertainment by the Chabo Brothers, Tom Griner, Malliku, Cactus Creek, Sandy Atkinson and Bonnie Whitehurst.

    The festival has humble roots. More than two decades ago, the first event was held at Johnson Park in Seminole, attracting 25 artists and raising $500. This year, the event will boast 75 ceramic, graphic, photography, wearable art, wood and other artists, along with potters and crafts people, and the prize money totals $3,000.

    By selling food, auction items and tickets for children's activities, organizers hope to top last year's take of $20,000.

    Claudia Sokolowski, an organizer, said the children's activity area will offer arts and crafts, a moon walk and a climbing wall. Kids can also ride on the Largo Central Park train. Tickets cost 50 cents each.

    The big moneymaker will be the two-day auction, which will offer a baseball signed by former Devil Rays player (now the batting coach) Wade Boggs, a golf glove signed by Hale Irwin, a photo signed by Bobby Bowden, a music box signed by Tony Bennett, weekend getaways at local resorts, dinners at high-end restaurants and gift certificates.

    Afterward, you could head to the Safety Harbor Seafood Festival, which has expanded its hours and children's activity area. There will be a pirate ship, and activities like the tot-tanic, turbo tower, the Kissing Fish Moon Walk, face painting and more.

    The Boulevard of Arts features the works of 40 artists, and funky jewelry, cruise wear, hats, T-shirts, watercolors, and blown glass and crafts will be sold.

    But the main attraction is the seafood -- 25 booths selling seafood prepared just about any way you can imagine.

    "It's a tremendous assortment of really good fish," said Spencer.

    If you don't care for seafood, the hot dogs and hamburgers are good, too, she said.

    Among the scheduled entertainers are Chadd & Kristi, DJs from the New Magic, WWRM-FM 94.9 radio morning show; Manatee Man, an entertainer who leads sing-alongs; 23 Skidoo, a Dixieland band; Steve Santo & the Doo Wops, who play '60s and '70s dance music.

    Not far from the stage, Mark "The Sandman" Messmer, a sand sculptor, will create a work called Discovery of Shipwreck Island. A portion of the proceeds generated by the festival will benefit the Safety Harbor Museum of Regional History and the City Youth Scholarship Fund.

    Then in Dunedin Saturday, you can pick up a treasure at the 12th annual Spring Antiques Fair on Main Street between Broadway and Douglas Avenue in Dunedin.

    The fair, which has been "very successful in the past" according to Shirley Reams, staff assistant with Dunedin's department of leisure services, which is organizing the event, will draw more than 70 art dealers from throughout the state.

    The dealers will sell their antiques on the closed street, and the dozen or so antique shops lining the street will be open for business.

    "It's a very well-respected antique show," said Sheila Black, Dunedin's community redevelopment agency administrator. "It's not the size of Mount Dora or anything, but the vendors all come back. I've never heard any negatives about it."

    If you go

    Looking for something free to do this weekend? There are three festivals to choose from: the eighth annual Safety Harbor Seafood Festival from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday and from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday at the Safety Harbor Marina, 109 Bayshore Blvd. S, Safety Harbor; the 24th annual All Children's Hospital Art Festival & Benefit Auction from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday at Largo Central Park, 101 Central Park Drive, Largo; and the 12th annual Spring Antiques Fair from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday between Broadway and Douglas Avenue, Dunedin.

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