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    Open season

    With spring fever breaking out all over, fun seekers have both art and bagpipes to choose from this weekend.

    [Times photo: Scott Keeler]
    Heather Everett, 13, of Clearwater, pipe major for the Dunedin Middle School Pipe Band, rehearses Monday night at the school with other band members in preparation for the Dunedin Highland Games. The band is made up of 12- to 14-year-olds.

    By EILEEN SCHULTE

    © St. Petersburg Times, published April 6, 2001


    Now that spring has arrived and the weather is comfortable, outdoor festivals beckon, enticing you with activities, food and more. This weekend, there are two very different culturally oriented and reasonably priced events you may want to take advantage of.

    For art lovers, there is the 27th annual Tarpon Springs Arts & Crafts Festival. For those who enjoy bagpipe music, Scottish dance contests and caber throwing, there is the 35th annual Dunedin Highland Games.

    Fun seekers may want to check out both festivals.

    Art in the park

    True, the 27th annual Tarpon Springs Arts & Crafts Festival isn't a free event like its slightly more popular south-county sister, the upcoming Mainsail Arts Festival in St. Petersburg.

    After all, it is a fundraiser for the Greater Tarpon Springs Chamber of Commerce.

    But talk about a nominal admission fee: Just $1 to see 225 artists from around the country (at least 40 states are represented), and five or six local artists such as Moon Bay Glass and La Mancha Mesa plucked from a juried pool of about 600 of their peers.

    Children under 16 are free.

    Why did the show select 225 exhibitors?

    "The park won't hold more than that," said Charlie Phillips, Greater Tarpon Springs Chamber of Commerce executive director.

    The buck-a-person admission also covers live music featuring Jeff Duncan and Mark McGorley (soft rock), Ozona (classic rock) and Suzanne Strickland (variety) on Saturday. On Sunday, the Manhattan Project (easy listening), and Roger (variety) are scheduled.

    Unfortunately, the entry fee doesn't cover food. But if you would like to purchase lunch, dinner or snacks, there is a variety, everything from Grandpa Dane's Kettle Korn to Palm Shady's restaurant's jerk chicken.

    But the star of the show may be its pastoral location.

    "It's in Craig Park, not in a parking lot," said Phillips. "It's along the waterfront in the (Spring) Bayou area. It's a beautiful setting. The sidewalks curl through the park, there are big oak trees. When you stroll through the park, you don't rush quite as fast."

    He's been watching the weather forecasts, and is thrilled that no rain is expected.

    "We have good food, good entertainment, good weather," Phillips said. "What else do you need?"

    Break out the bagpipes

    When asked to describe the annual Dunedin Highland Games, Barbara Czipri thought about the question for a few seconds before answering.

    It's sort of like a town picnic, the officer-at-large for the festival committee said.

    Well, maybe a town picnic in Scotland.

    Lots of the men -- and even some of the women -- are dressed in traditional kilts, although their kilts are about knee-length rather than mini skirt length, Czipri said.

    "You'll see a lot of people in kilts," Czipri said.

    And there are other activities you don't find at just any picnic, like Irish step dancing, bagpipe and sheep dog dance competitions (participants will do highland swing, highland fling, reel of Tulloch and sword dances), a performance by a Irish music performance group called Pooka and the Titanic Dancers, a sheaf toss, a caber toss and a hammer throw.

    "It's unique. It's like being in Scotland for a day," Czipri said.

    Stirling, Scotland, to be exact. The grand marshal of the festival, the chieftain of the games, will be Tommy Brookes, the provost (or mayor) of Dunedin's sister city across the ocean.

    He arrived in town March 31, and has been "making the rounds," Czipri said, going to Dunedin High School to meet students and attending a dinner thrown in his honor by the city.

    Brookes will preside over a festival that has become a 35-year tradition in Dunedin that can draw as many as 20,000 people if the weather cooperates. For many, the highlights of the event are a parade of clans and individual and pipe band competitions.

    Twenty pipe bands have been invited to participate, including The Citadel Pipe and Drum Band, and the Charleston South Carolina police and pipe band.

    "This is the southeast United States Pipe band championship," Czipri said.

    One of the youngest bagpipe bands to compete is the Dunedin Middle School Pipe Band made up of a little more than a dozen students ranging between the ages of 12 and 14.

    The 44-year-old band is one of just a handful of pipe bands in the country made up of such young players.

    "In Dunedin, there's quite an interest in (pipe playing) among young people. They start them in the sixth grade," Czipri said. "In Dunedin, it's not geeky to wear a kilt, believe it or not."

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