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AND THE VERDICT IS As the summer months draw near, college kids across the country begin to sweat. Some determinedly prepare for exams while others struggle to complete final projects. Students in Hillsborough Community College's fine arts program add to the usual end-of-year angst by also creating some sort of masterwork to be submitted for entry into the 31st Annual Juried Student Art Exhibition. The cream of the crop are selected and displayed in Ybor's School of Visual & Performing Arts Gallery, and you can expect to see an extensive range of media, including ceramics, photography, digital imagery, paintings, drawings, sculptures and print works. Past shows have revealed some truly exceptional talents; this year, Thomas McLaughlin, a professor of art at the University of South Florida, will judge the entries. An opening reception occurs tonight from 5 to 8 p.m., with an awards ceremony beginning at 7 p.m. Gallery hours are 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Mon., noon-7 p.m. Tues., and 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Wed.-Fri; the works are on display through May 20. HCC Performing Arts Building, Palm Avenue and 15th Street, Ybor City, 813-253-7674.


ISLAND IN THE SUN There are plenty of reasons to visit Dunedin on any typical weekend. Planet readers, for instance, seem to enjoy its food offerings; Deli News has been winning our Best Cuban Sammie award for years, and Casa Tina's Mexican Restaurant acquired both the Best Mexican and Best Vegetarian award in 2002. There's also a happening music scene, a brewery, a country club, an assortment of unique shops and galleries, and, of course, some rather stunning beaches. This weekend, you can enjoy a little bit of everything Dunedin has to offer at Island Fest, a three-day shindig at Honeymoon Island State Park. Food is a special focus, and you can munch on all types of seafood treats and landlubber eats. Other diversions include a variety of rides and games; live music of all varieties; a boat show with everything from canoes and kayaks to recreational and pleasure boats; Osprey Village, a separate area within the festival featuring educational displays, presentations, guided walks and nature-themed, hands-on exhibits and projects; and much more. 5-10 p.m. Fri., 10 a.m.-10 p.m. Sat., and 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Sun., April 29-May 1. Admission is $5 per car plus $2 per person (children 12 and younger enter free). One Causeway Blvd., Dunedin, 727-469-5942,

WALK LIKE AN EGYPTIAN Amneris, daughter of an Egyptian pharaoh, fancies the affection of Radamès, an officer selected by the goddess Isis to lead Egypt's army in a war against the Ethiopians. When Radamès falls for Aida, Amneris' slave and daughter of the opposing king, he abandons allegiance to his country for love. Based loosely on a historical incident recorded by Auguste Mariette, Verdi's Aida was commissioned by the Khedive of Egypt to celebrate the opening of the Suez Canal. The opera debuted at the then new Cairo Opera House in December of 1871, and is generally considered one of Verdi's finest works. Anton Coppola conducts Opera Tampa and Orlando Opera in a local collaboration of Aida that features extravagant costumes, massive sets and a full orchestra. Opening night kicks off with Opera Tampa League's annual fundraiser, a formal affair that includes a pre-performance cocktail buffet at the center and a post-performance reception with opera principals and Maestro Coppola (6:30 p.m., $95; opera tickets not included). Aida is performed in Italian, with English supertitles projected above the stage. 8 p.m. Fri. and 2 p.m. Sun., April 29-May 1. $24.50-$75. Carol Morsani Hall, Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center, 1010 N. MacInnes Place, Tampa, 813-229-7827.


NATURE'S STAGE If you're looking for a way to enjoy the lovely days of spring, consider spending some time walking or biking through St. Petersburg's Historic Old Northeast Neighborhood during its Fifth Annual Spring Garden Stroll. This year, showcased items include creative landscape and patio designs, unique fountains and ponds, native and unusual plants, poolside tropical gardens, covered porches and decks, and much more. Master gardeners from Pinellas County are on hand to answer questions about Florida gardening, and for the second consecutive year, strollers can catch a glimpse of a Florida Certified Garden, which boasts a range of bird- and butterfly-attracting plants, in addition to garden displays created with natural materials, native plants and water features. Participants can also visit the Renaissance Vinoy Resort's Tea Garden and receive free admission to Sunken Gardens both today and tomorrow (ticket stub required). 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Tickets are $15 and can be picked up, along with a stroll map/booklet, from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Westminster Presbyterian Church, 126 11th Ave. N.E., St. Petersburg, 727-894-1057.


ON THEIR TOES For more than a decade, the Tampa Ballet Center has endeavored to keep the local tradition of classical ballet alive by sharing the artform with the Bay area community. To do this, the center offers training courses for ballet dancers of all skill levels, and those exhibiting a more professional level of talent are invited to take part in the annual spring concert. This afternoon, dance devotees, casual fans and anyone interested in movement and physical expression are invited to TBC's 2005 Spring Concert. Now in its 10th year, the concert is led by TBC director Robin Pollara, a practiced professional who's probably most recognized for her work with the Acanthus Ballet, the Dance Theatre of Florida, and the now defunct Tampa Ballet. She's joined by an assemblage of seasoned regional dancers and up-and-comers. The program includes variations on well-known numbers like the Pas De Quatre and La Bayadere, as well as original pieces by local choreographers (Passages, Boogie Woogie, Dawn Flowers and Joie de Vivre). For tickets and more information, call 813-831-9660. 3 p.m. $15. H.B. Plant High School Auditorium, 2415 S. Himes Ave., Tampa.


NEVER FORGET Yom Hashoah, or Holocaust Remembrance Day, is a public holiday honoring the six million Jews who died during the Holocaust. At the same time, it also marks the anniversary of the heroic Warsaw Ghetto uprising of 1943. Yom Hashoah is generally observed with candle lighting, speakers, poems, prayers and singing. In Israel, a two-minute-long siren is heard throughout the country, during which all activity ceases; work is halted, people walking in the streets stop, cars pull off to the side of the road, and everybody stands at silent attention in reverence to the victims of the Holocaust. Locally, the Florida Holocaust Museum teams up with Temple Ahavat Shalom to present two separate programs honoring the holiday. The first features guest speaker Jonathan Zimmer, grandson of Holocaust rescuer Walter Ukalo, who supplied hundreds of Jews with false papers, money, clothing and shelter (7:30 p.m. Wed., May 4, Temple Ahavat Shalom, 1575 Curlew Road, Palm Harbor, 727-785-8811). And the Florida Holocaust Museum hosts a program with Dr. Helen Fagin, a survivor and Holocaust educator, and guests David B. Sislen (cantor) and Coleman Reaboi (cantorial soloist) (4 p.m. Thurs., May 5, 55 Fifth St. S., St. Petersburg, 727-820-0100).

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