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Aquafest is Tampa's new Fourth fete

Taking over the tradition of Freedom Fest, the Florida Aquarium hosts a two-day event with food, bands and marine-themed activities.

By LEA IADAROLA

© St. Petersburg Times,
published June 28, 2001


July 4 is the 225th anniversary of the United States' birth, and Tampa is going to celebrate.

For the past 15 years, Tampa has commemorated July 4 with Freedom Fest, a celebration held downtown at Curtis Hixon Park. But that ended in 1999 when sponsors couldn't be found for the event. So the Florida Aquarium created Aquafest, a celebration of America's birthday and a salute to Florida's seafood industry and marine resources.

Aquafest will be a big block party which includes and introduces the aquarium's neighbors -- the Channelside shops.

"We hope this is the start of a new Tampa tradition," said Sue Ellen Richardson, public relations manager of the Florida Aquarium. "The first year is always the hardest year, and we want to learn from it."

The two-day festival, geared toward families, will feature an art show with works by 25 bay area artists.

Local and regional rock bands such as Bad Neighbor, Rex Rogers Band, Stormbringer and Landsharks will perform. The 250-member choir from Living Waters Church will perform patriotic songs on Wednesday night.

About a dozen seafood vendors will provide the munchies.

Other activities featured at Aquafest will include marine environment education booths, nautical exhibits and a kids' area with arts and crafts, face painting, a caricature artist and a clown. Also featured will be a virtual theater with a virtual reality cruise trip.

And, of course, no July 4 festival is complete without fireworks. There will be a 20-minute show Wednesday evening.

Festival attendees are encouraged to bring a canned food item to donate. Some of the aquarium's proceeds during Aquafest will benefit Metropolitan Ministries and Law Enforcement Charities.

At a glance

  • What: Aquafest, the city of Tampa's July 4 celebration
  • When: noon-9 p.m. Tuesday, 10 a.m.-9 p.m. Wednesday
  • Where: Outside the Florida Aquarium, along the waterfront and Channelside Drive
  • Cost: Admission to Aquafest is free; admission to the aquarium is $7.
  • Contact: (813) 273-4000

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