Do It This Weekend: Honda Grand Prix, Sensory Overload, Jannus Live, Festa Italiana, Guiding Light and more

Over the years, my father has been fond of saying, "There are two kinds of people in this world: those who are Italian, and those who want to be.”  Regardless of which camp you fall in, we can all be paisani at the 13th Annual Festa Italiana in Ybor City, which is as filled to overflowing as your tummy after an Italian Sunday dinner. The festivities kick off this Thursday with Wines of Italy at the Italian Club, the Festa Italiana's host, natch.  Friday and Saturday evenings offer Cinema Italiano, which features screenings of two new, acclaimed films.  Festa Saturday offers a bocce ball tournament, homemade vino competition and an Italian Idol contest (brace yourself for at least one rendition of “That’s Amore”). Sunday marks the main event, with live entertainment, cooking demonstrations, children's activities and a host of food vendors (including Beef O' Brady's and Sonny's BBQ). Guess they want to be Italian, too. March 25-28, Wines of Italy, 6-9 p.m., Thurs., March 25, The Italian Club, 1731 E. Seventh Ave., Tampa; Cinema Italiano, 6:30 p.m. Fri.-Sat., March 26-27, Italian Club Theatre; Festa Saturday, 10 a.m.-6 p.m., Sat. March 27, Centennial Park; Festa Italiana, 11:30 a.m.-6 p.m., Sun., March 28, Centennial Park, festaitalianatampa.com. —Anthony Salveggi


Recontstruct is a Groovy Graphics-hosted contest where local creatives can turn plain ol' tees into original works of art, which are then catwalked down the runway to be judged and scored for style and creativity. Party-goers get t-shirts designed especially for the event, and the top designer gets all the accolades and awards associated with the win. And it's a pretty prestigious title: last year's champeen was St. Pete fashion scene staple, Ivanka Ska. Call Marianne Shaffer at 727-544-7705 or visit groovygraphics.net for more info. Fri., March 26, Red Mesa, St. Petersburg.


Raise your hand if you’ve always wanted to watch strong, sweaty men give each other fat lips and black eyes on a very big screen? Fine, I didn’t raise mine, but if you did, you’re in luck: NCM Fathom and the Ultimate Fighting Championship team up to present the first ever live, nationwide broadcast of a UFC match. In ring one, UFC welterweight champion Georges “Rush” St-Pierre takes on the undefeated Dan “The Outlaw” Hardy. In ring two, former two-time heavyweight champion Frank Mir goes for the interim UFC heavyweight title against number one contender Shane Carwin. And hey, with their catchy nicknames and potential black eyes, I bet the loser of the “Rush” vs. “The Outlaw” match can become the fifth member of the Black Eyed Peas. 10 p.m. Sat., March 27, Regal Citrus Park 20, 7999 Citrus Park Town Center Mall, $15, visit fathomevents.com for full list of participating theaters. —Lily Reisman


[image-1]The Straz Center may have a new name, but they’re still bringing the same interesting array of arty adventures. This weekend brings Arias and Encores, where Opera Tampa artists, apprentices and special stage guests celebrate its 15th anniversary. You’ll hear music by Puccini, Verdi, Bizet and a work by Opera Tampa’s own marvelously talented maestro (and uncle of Francis Ford), Anton Coppola's Sacco and Vanzetti. If your opera glasses are in need of repair, check out Cirque Dreams Illumination instead (pictured). A bevy of cirque-style shows have been making the circuit lately, but one stands out from the crowd. From the fantastical minds of the creators of the Broadway smash, Cirque Dreams Jungle Fantasy, comes this collection of city-dwelling citizens just like us – except we can't dangle delicately from wires, leap from skyscrapers without a scratch, fly through the urban jungle or balance beyond belief. The athletes, musicians and artists who populate this metropolis light up the cityscape of the stage. Arias and Encores, 4 p.m. Sun., March 28, Ferguson Hall, $42.50, operatampa.org; Cirque Dreams Illumination, through March 28, 7:30 p.m. Weds.-Thurs., 8 p.m. Fri., 2 and 8 p.m. Sat., 2 and 7:30 p.m. Sun. Carol Morsani Hall, Straz Center for the Performing Arts, 1010 N. MacInnes Place, Tampa, $43.50-$72.50, strazcenter.org. —Franki Weddington


Forget the earthquake in Haiti, the battle over health care reform, or Ellen on Idol: the biggest news story of the past year is the cancellation of Guiding Light, the soap that inspired decades of rabid devotion in housewives and retirees across the nation. Today, amidst the tears, offers a last shot at glory: meet stars of the show like Kim Zimmer (Reva Lewis), Grant Aleksander (Philip Spaulding), Robert Newman (Josh Lewis), Justin Deas (Buzz) and Michael O’Leary (Rick Bauer). Get hugs and take photos with your faves -- you'll always have the pictures and the memories to get you through the tough times. Visit celebrityeventsgroup.com for tickets and info. Goodbye Guiding Light, Sat., March 27, 11 a.m.-4 p.m., Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino, Tampa, $35.


Snuggle up for a screening under the stars: tonight's Sunset Cinema selection is Where the Wild Things Are. Toss a Frisbee or a football; bring a blanket or a lawn chair; nosh on movie snacks or a picnic and a bottle of wine (though you might want to keep that one under wraps) -- tonight, it's all about viewing al fresco. Visit tampatheatre.com for more info. Sat., March 27, gates open at 5:45 p.m., movie begins at 7:45 p.m., Al Lopez Park, Tampa, free.


Saturday's SpringFest street festival in Gulfport celebrates with arts and crafts,  glass-blowing demos, and a Bonnet Parade and Hat Fest to put the Mad Hatter's tea party to shame. Create your own weird, fashionable, cartoony, kitschy or themed chapeau, and you could win a prize for Judges' Favorite, Biggest Hat, Most Creative, Best Pet Hat and "Seriously?" There's only one rule: it's gotta actually fit on your dome. Visit SIKPromotions.com for more info. Sat., March 27, 10 a.m.-8 p.m., Beach Boulevard, Gulfport.


The Teatro Lirico D'Europa offers La Boheme, Puccini's heart-wrenching tale of a Parisian poet who falls for a poor seamstress whose health is failing. Later the inspiration for the Broadway hit musical, RENT, the opera follows the blossoming of Rodolfo and Mimi's relationship, followed by the desperation, jealousy and death that ensue. We suggest bringing a hanky. Visit rutheckerdhall.com for more info. Fri., March 26, 8 p.m., Ruth Eckerd Hall, Clearwater, $38-$48.

It's a huge weekend in Tampa Bay, full of ways to celebrate that the long winter of our discontent is over, and that spring (cross your fingers) is finally here.

Two big events take over downtown St. Pete this weekend. The roar of the engines is almost as loud as the hype for the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, a mega-mix of thrilling IndyCar auto races, celebrity meet-and-greets and non-stop partying that kicks off with a street party tonight, Get Downtown Fast Friday, at 6 p.m. on Central Avenue between 2nd & 3rd streets. Qualifying and practice rounds take up much of Saturday, and then on Sunday it's off to the races: Star Mazda at 11:50, Indy Lights at 12:45 and IndyCar, the main event, at 3:45. Bring earplugs and sunscreen (or maybe, judging by forecasts, an umbrella) and enjoy the spectacle of St. Pete's scenic waterfront turned into a racetrack-with-a-view. Tickets: Call 727-898-INDY, email [email protected] or visit Ticketmaster.com.

The grand reopening of Jannus Landing as Jannus Live (VIP lounges! a koi pond!) continues with Friday's concert featuring .38 Special. While many bands have come, gone and reunited years later, the Jacksonville-bred band has been going strong throughout their 30-year career with a sound described by lead vocalist Van Zant as “greasy, loud and proud.” Saturday night's headliner is Grammy-winning country rebel, the antithesis to country music’s current infatuation with blonde hair and big ballads. Finally, Jannus Live closes things out on Sunday with a Honda Grand Prix Victory Party featuring DJ Irie and friends. Thurs., March 25, 6:30 p.m.-late, Greg Billings Band w/Tom Gribbin and Gale Trippsmith, free admission; Fri., March 26, 8 p.m., .38 Special w/Molly Hatchet, $35 in advance/$40 dos; Sat., March 27, 8 p.m., Gretchen Wilson, $40 in advance/$45 dos; and Sun., March 28, 6 p.m., DJ Irie and friends, free admission. All shows at Jannus Live, First Avenue N. and Second Street N., downtown St. Petersburg. —Matt Spencer

Warning: There is so much cool stuff going on at CL’s fifth annual Sensory Overload, your brain might just go into overdrive. The smorgasbord of stimulating events takes over CL’s new home, historic Ybor City, where you’ll have access to The Roosevelt, New World Brewery, King Corona Cigar, Redletter1 Gallery and The Honeypot. Revels include live music and performances,  visual art, video installations on the streets, and models clad in Dali-inspired, Ivanka Ska-created couture working the whole shebang (pictured; photo by Ungala). Plus, like any good party, there’s food, beer, wine and hand-rolled cigars (hey, we’re in Ybor after all). Some of the highlights include Sons of Hippies and DJ Cub at The Roosevelt; Joe Popp and Have Gun Will Travel onstage at New World Brewery; a freaky food tasting at King Corona Cigar (we’re giving away samples of the Miracle Fruit, which makes hot sauce taste like donut glaze and Guinness taste like a chocolate milkshake); art and tattooing at Redletter1; and the official VIP Sensory Overload after-party at Honeypot. 7 p.m. Sat., March 27, Ybor City, $10 in advance, $15 night of event, visit cltampa.com/sensoryoverload for full schedule of events. —Lily Reisman

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