Legendary party

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An 84-year-old New Port Richey tradition, the Chasco Fiesta honors the legend involving a Spanish boy and girl, a priest, and the Calusa Indian tribe who captured them after intercepting and overpowering a Spanish expedition. According to the tale, the boy and girl were later wed as Queen Chasco and her consort, Pithla. Things get a little vague after that, but hey, I like a good party as much as anyone, and the story only serves as the basis for an event celebrating Florida's Native American heritage.

The 11-day Chasco Fiesta opens with a Native American dance competition, pow-wow and festival (March 23-26), featuring performances by Native American artists Bill Miller (8 p.m. Thurs., March 23) and Irene Bedard (daily), native food and crafts, prize drawings and drumming.

Oversized balloons, decorated floats, marching bands and about 20 bead-tossing krewe's from the Tampa Bay area overtake the streets at the downtown parade, which begins at 1 p.m. Sun., March 25. The fourth annual Chasco Fiesta Talent Search Showcase rounds out the weekend on Sun., March 26, and features roughly 30 performers in a professionally produced concert.

Other diversions include a carnival midway, the Coronation Ball, a Chasco Fiesta memorabilia exhibit and children's village, the boat parade, a world-record beef barbeque, and concerts featuring country stars Blake Shelton and Keith Anderson (April 1, $15) and contemporary Christian performers Matthew West and Andrew Phillip (March 31, $5).

Chasco Fiesta benefits area nonprofit organizations Lighthouse for the Blind, Sertoma Speech & Hearing, Gulf High School and several others.

Chasco Fiesta, March 23-April 2, Main Street and Sims Park, downtown New Port Richey, 727-842-7651, chascofiesta.com.

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