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Founder's Day parade puts fizz in Zephyrhills

Funds raised by the activities benefit Main Street Zephyrhills, the sponsor of the two-day event. At the end of the parade route, friends bail out prisoners in Ye Olde Hoosegow.

By MICHELLE JONES

© St. Petersburg Times, published March 13, 2000


ZEPHYRHILLS -- Delores Gauthier says Main Street Zephyrhills sure knows how to throw a party.

"The parade was great, and we enjoyed the (Kiwanis) fish fry," the 65-year-old said. "The music and the clowns are great too; all this makes me happy."

Gauthier and her husband, Cliff, celebrated Founder's Day on Saturday in Zephyrhills with thousands of other people.

The two-hour parade, with a theme of "What Does the Future Hold for You," had people lining Main Street two to three rows deep.

This year, in addition to candy thrown from parade participants, beads were tossed to spectators. Organizers decided to sell beads to mark the 50th anniversary of the parade and to add a little excitement to the usually docile celebration.

"Throw some beads," was shouted to the participants along the 1.3-mile route from the crowd. "Throw some gold."

For Roman and Betty Roskopf, winter residents who migrate from Wisconsin, the parade was their first.

Although the Roskopfs have traveled south to Zephyrhills for 10 years, they had never been to the Founder's Day celebration.

Betty Roskopf and her husband were surprised by the number of people at the 10 a.m. parade.

"It is a beautiful day," she said.

The parade featured the usual firetrucks, politicians and several marching bands.

Floats depicting the parade's theme were sponsored by the Southern Charm RV Resort, Baker Acres RV Ranch, Taylor Elementary School and Pasco Hernando Community College.

The Roskopfs were also amazed at the couple thought to be one of America's longest-married, leading the parade in a 1922 Model T Ford, an automobile younger than the couple. Gilbert and Sadie Hill have been married for 80 years.

"We only have 31 years to go," said Mr. Roskopf, who said he and his wife have been wed 48 1/2 years.

City Manager Steve Spina was driving a blue and white 1957 Chevrolet.

"We had a red one," said Mr. Roskopf, who knew and identified all the antique cars as they passed by in the parade.

As Pasco County Sheriff Lee Cannon passed by, he was asked whether he would be tossed in Ye Olde Hoosegow at the end of the parade route.

"Every time I come here, they try to put me in jail," he said. "I have no idea where the money goes (to bail him out)."

Funds raised by prisoners serving "jail time" and being bailed by friends benefit Main Street Zephyrhills, the sponsor of the two-day event.

The grand marshal of this year's parade was Greg Hilferding, who recently raised more than $10,000 in pledges for Main Street.

He also threw beads and waved as he walked the parade route, very short in comparison to the more than 2,000-mile Appalachian Trail trek he recently completed.

Both young and old were represented in the parade. Retirees from several recreational vehicle resorts and camps rode in cars and square-danced on floats. Tiny majorettes twirled batons while Scout troops marched carrying the American flag.

Bagpipers representing four clans played music of their homeland, and the Sons of the Confederate Veterans in gray uniforms marched carrying their flag.

A tiny dog dressed in a red and black jester's costume rode in a stroller while a clown guided it along the route.

"Look at that motorcycle," said Mrs. Roskopf, referring to a Honda Gold Wing.

Her husband commented that it probably cost $18,000.

"Some are more than that," he said of the 10 or more motorcycles in the parade.

Some parade participants, from Heartland of Zephyrhills, a nursing home, were pushed in wheelchairs. They happily tossed candy to spectators.

One of the funniest entries in the parade was a supposedly driverless car. A man dressed as Uncle Sam ran alongside the car holding the steering wheel and getting laughs from the crowd.

"Oh that is too cute," said Mrs. Roskopf.

After the parade was over, the Roskopfs agreed it was worth coming to see.

"We will be back next year," said Mr. Roskopf.

The remainder of the day's activities took place in Times Square on Main Street. Entertainment, food, arts and crafts booths kept people occupied.

Main Street was selling T-shirts and giving away commemorative bricks to new members.

"The T-shirts are going real good," said Flora McClain, a volunteer. "This crowd is wonderful."

Helen LeCroy, 73, from Dade City, was enjoying the musical portion of the entertainment as she did the twist, by herself, along with the music.

"I love to dance," she said. "I clog a little, do the two-step and the waltz."

Cliff Gauthier said he really likes what Zephyrhills has done with all the renovations.

"The town is beautiful," he said.

- Michelle Jones covers central Pasco community news. She can be reached at (813) 226-3459. Her e-mail address is jones@sptimes.com.

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