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    Sunset party may bring new dawn to Palm Harbor

    Organizers hope tonight's event spawns more festivals and more activity downtown.


    © St. Petersburg Times,
    published June 1, 2001

    PALM HARBOR -- Deborah Voss envisions a pause in the festivities tonight, when people gathered on Florida Avenue in downtown Palm Harbor will turn toward the Gulf of Mexico to watch the sunset.

    Maybe, like in Key West, they might even applaud. But if that doesn't happen, the Downtown Palm Harbor Main Street Association has other activities planned to keep people's attention.

    Tonight marks the first of what members of the Main Street Association hope will be a monthly event called Sunsets on Florida Avenue, a small festival the first Friday night of each month.

    Tonight's event will feature a tropical theme, with a band playing Caribbean-influenced music, food, beer, children's activities and other entertainment.

    The events are aimed at drawing people to the downtown in anticipation of an ambitious revitalization plan.

    "The more people see these activities going on, the word will buzz," said Voss, a downtown resident who leads the Main Street promotion team. "There is more downtown than people think there is."

    David Birkenhauer, owner of the Blue Coyote Cafe, said downtown traffic is crucial to the survival of small businesses, like his, which are a cornerstone of the downtown revitalization plan. The Sunsets on Florida Avenue events are designed to "give local residents a reason to come and shop and spend some time with their neighbors," he said.

    "The goal is to make this a town center, to get people accustomed to coming to the historic district," Birkenhauer said.

    Voss is convinced people will be pleasantly surprised by what they see.

    "People from out of town will see there are restaurants and merchants here," she said. "Main Street is larger than people know about."

    Voss also hopes the events will help recruit new members for the Main Street Association.

    "We've got a lot of vision right now and a lot of enthusiasm, but we're still a small group of people," Voss said.

    For this first event, the band Two Laid Back will play Jimmy Buffett, Caribbean-style music from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. from the Blue Coyote Cafe. The Thirsty Marlin will have a tent and there will be a pretzel and hot dog vendor. There also will be tents selling beer, wine and soda. For the kids, there will be a Hula Hoop contest, face-painting and sidewalk-drawing. At 8:30 p.m., Eric the Illusionist will perform a half-hour magic show.

    - Staff writer Robert Farley can be reached at (727) 445-4185.

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