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Carnival of inclusion planned over four days

Pinellas Park will celebrate America - yet have a cosmopolitan air - at its annual Fall Harvest Festival.

By ANNE LINDBERG

© St. Petersburg Times,
published October 31, 2001


PINELLAS PARK -- As Americans struggle to make sense of political and social issues that led to the events of Sept. 11, the city has scheduled an event designed to promote multicultural understanding.

The annual Fall Harvest Festival, jointly sponsored by Pinellas Park and the St. Petersburg International Folk Fair Society, will run Thursday through Sunday at the park surrounding the England Brothers Band Shell, just north of City Hall, 5141 78th Ave. N.

This year's theme is "Celebrating America."

As in the past, the event will feature a Parade of Nations and a multicultural tent where different nationalities will have cultural displays. Yes, those will include Middle Eastern countries.

"We had a meeting early on to talk about it," said Tim Caddell, the city's public event director. "Our consensus was, it's probably more important now than ever that we do celebrate the cultural diversity of our community. Right now is when we need to be saying, 'Look, these people are like us.' "

Gail Wallace, administrative manager of SPIFFS, agreed that the festival could do a lot to further multicultural understanding. That's one reason natives of Bosnia-Herzegovina, Iran and Egypt will be there.

"They believe in what SPIFFS is," Wallace said.

Talk to the people, she said, and find out what they're like and the experiences many of them went through to get to America.

"They came here for a better life," she said.

Mostly though, people should just have fun, Wallace said, which includes carnival rides that begin Thursday evening. After the 9:45 a.m. official festival opening Saturday, visitors can prowl the crafts tent and sample foods from all over the world.

The entertainment will include Polynesian fire dancers and Irish singers. There will be pony rides, and Popeye's Fried Chicken will sponsor a wing eating contest.

Festivalgoers also will have a chance to do something for those less fortunate.

The city is sponsoring a canned food drive to benefit the food bank at Good Samaritan Church in Pinellas Park.

Caddell said he got the idea when talking with someone from the United Way last weekend. He found out that donations to that group's Sept. 11 fund were doing well, but donations to other funds were down about 30 percent. The hardest hit, he was told, were food pantries.

"The shelves are bare," Caddell said.

Because the Fall Harvest Festival celebrates the bounty of the harvest, Caddell said he thought it fitting to share that bounty with others.

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