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Celebration fills the air at fundraising festival

Hundreds show up for Celebration Pasco 2001, which features hot-air balloons, food and rides - but mostly balloons.

By RYAN DAVIS

© St. Petersburg Times, published May 6, 2001


ODESSA -- Every day in his nursery, Jaron Kaplan is surrounded by the hot air balloons on his walls.

Saturday morning at Starkey Ranch, the balloons came to life around the 2-year-old, his mother and his 5-year-old brother, Adam.

"That's my favorite one," Adam said, pointing at a yellow, orange and red balloon passing overhead. "I like the color of it, and I like the shape of the basket."

The Kaplan family of New Port Richey was among a few hundred people who gathered Saturday morning on the open land along State Road 54 for Celebration Pasco 2001.

As daylight brightened the pink sky, 12 of the the nearly 70-foot-tall balloons of all colors -- two bearing American flag-like designs and others displaying every color in the rainbow -- lifted into the sky.

The one-day event, which also featured games and entertainment, raised money for the Heritage Park Foundation, the group attempting to build a historical park in Land O'Lakes, and the Pasco Education Foundation, as well as a handful of other non-profit causes, spokeswoman Kathryn Starkey said.

Eleven of the balloons chased the "hare," a red lead ballon, trying to follow it to its landing site and drop weighted bags on an X placed next to it.

As the "hounds" followed the hare southwest from Starkey Ranch, the balloon crowd quickly turned into a breakfast crowd, forming a line for pancakes and sausage.

Not 4-year-old Zoe Andrews of New Port Richey.

She headed straight for the carnival rides. Maybe she couldn't hitch a ride on a hot air balloon, but Zoe flew -- whipping around on a spinning swing at 7:30 a.m.

"We haven't had breakfast yet, so she's okay," said her mother, Susan Andrews.

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