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Planned kids' parade is a wash

The Festival of States event is canceled because its main planner had surgery.

By LENNIE BENNETT

© St. Petersburg Times, published March 7, 2001


ST. PETERSBURG -- Festival of States organizers have canceled a new event, the Kids' Fun Parade, because of the illness of a pivotal volunteer.

Gene Downs, 68, a member of the Suncoasters civic group that sponsors the festival, is known as Mr. Parade. For five years, he has handled all the paperwork and created the lineups for the day and night parades. He also was in charge of the new Fun Parade. He recently underwent heart surgery in Jacksonville.

"He's doing much better," said Festival of States spokeswoman Sandy Lee. "But the volunteers who are taking over his work felt they could not handle a new event along with the other parades. Gene was the one who knew everything about the Fun Parade."

The Kids' Fun Parade was created to give local youth groups such as Scout troops an opportunity to participate in the Festival of States. In the past, only a few representatives of such groups could march in the larger parades.

The Fun Parade was to have preceded the April 7 day parade, called the TradeWinds Resort Festival Parade, which is made up primarily of floats and marching bands. Neither the Festival Parade nor the SouthTrust Illuminated Night Parade on April 2 will be affected, Lee said.

She announced another development. For the first time, all concessions during festival events must be purchased with coupons rather than cash. She said the change was made to better track sales. Festivalgoers can buy coupons on site; there are no plans for advance coupon sales.

The Festival of States is an 80-year-old tradition in St. Petersburg that has evolved into multiple events centered on the venerable day parade. This year, the festival runs from March 30 through April 8. It includes the Sam Robinson Tampa Bay Blues Festival, antique auto show, art show, musical performances, fireworks, PierFest and Extreme Sports Fest. For information, call 898-3654.

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