It is exciting to see the Chasco Fiesta returning this year. The 2020 event was completely washed out as the COVID pandemic swept the world. For 2021, only certain parts occurred, eg. the Chasco Car Show and the Native American Festival. This year, the full Fiesta is back, bigger and better than ever.
There are some major changes this year and I’ll try to address them all.
The Carnival – The carnival, at least in recent years, has been held in the Gloria Swanson parking lot, expanding out around Orange Lake. The revitalization of the historic downtown business community and the impending opening of the Hacienda Hotel has made this location problematic at best. It is not unusual to see the Swanson lot packed on both weekdays and weekends.
The Chasco Fiesta organization approached the Pasco County School Board and secured permission to have the carnival on St. Clair Field, immediately east of the Harry Schwettman Education Center that sits on the corner of Grand Blvd and Gulf Drive. In hind sight, I’m not sure why somebody didn’t think of this location sooner as it allows a much larger carnival than anything that could be shoehorned into the downtown, it has parking, and it is an easy spot to use with shuttle service between the carnival and Sims Park. It is my understanding that two Red Apple school buses will be making the run from St. Clair Field to Sims Park. There is no charge to enter the carnival and tickets/armbands are available for the rides. Parking for $5 is available across the street and benefits the African American Club.
The Parade – Because St. Clair Field was where the marching band units were staged, the Chasco organizers had to find a new location for the bands and other marching units to get set up. Moving the start of the parade to Marine Parkway and Grand solves this problem. Since Marine Parkway dead ends at the Gulf High School campus, setting up all the units and going out Marine Parkway to Grand Blvd should work just fine.
Sims Park – The most controversial change has been to allow the Chasco Fiesta event to take over the entire park and charge a $5 adult admission fee on most days. The Chasco Fiesta folks actually broached the idea several years ago.
The biggest advantages of this change is that it will allow better crowd control and it will provide much needed funds to cover the expense of putting on this 10 day event. There is also a multi-day pass so you can save on the daily admissions.
The downsides are that it makes it more expensive to come to the Fiesta every day and it may have a negative effect on the non-profit groups that sell items in the park, many of whom make a large part of their annual revenue by working the Chasco Fiesta.
I’m certain that this change will be revisited after the event to see if the net effect was good or bad. To put the admission fee into perspective, both the Pasco County Fair and the Plant City Strawberry Festival charge $10 for daily admissions.
The playground will remain accessible without charge.
Parking – New this year is the city parking garage right behind Keiser University. This adds some 350 much needed free parking spaces. The free DART shuttle has been in operation for several weeks now and the route includes both the garage and Sims Park. We have a second DART shuttle on order, but it hasn’t been delivered yet. In order to help with the number of folks who are likely to use the parking garage, the city has contracted with the Jolly Trolley folks to provide a 32 passenger trolley to supplement the DART shuttle.
On Street Parade Saturday, both Community Congregational Church and First United Methodist Church will have paid parking available in their church lots.
Car, Truck & Bike Show – The car show will be held on Sunday, March 27th. It will be downtown, primarily along Grand Blvd south of Main Street. This location was used last year and it works very well.
I’m excited to see how this year’s Chasco Fiesta comes off. I’ll be volunteering four evenings and I encourage any of you who might want to volunteer to reach out to the Chasco Fiesta Volunteer Coordinator.
Rob Marlowe, Mayor