Chasco Fiesta brings New Port Richey citizens together

Born in 1922, Chasco Fiesta has been a staple of Pasco County over the past hundred years. Citizens looked for a way to bring more families into the community while also raising money for the local library. New Port Richey’s first postmaster, Gerben DeVries, inspired by his love for the Indian tribes, created a fictional dance pageant. The event takes place right on the Pithlachascotee River in downtown New Port Rickey.

Chasco Fiesta features memorabilia from past events. They feature information on how it started, who started it, and what types of events were held in each fiesta.

The Chasco Fiesta today has a host of events during its 9-day annual calendar. Starting off with a street parade and ethnic dance with native counterparts and leads off with a carnival in downtown New Port Richey, giving families the opportunity to bring their kids down for some enjoyment.

Chasco Fiesta has many rides for families to come and enjoy. One of those rides includes the Sea Ray Orbiter ride.

Many large country talents have made their way through Chasco along their path to stardom. One in particular being country superstar Blake Shelton, who once performed at Chasco over a decade ago. Cami Austin, chairman of the steering committee, says, “We  pride ourselves on finding talent out there no one has heard of yet; it is what makes Chasco unique.”

Chasco Fiesta features live performances from country singers who are not yet well known. These performances are considered to be the thing to make Chasco unique.

Resident Tyler Letts describes Chasco as an event where all aspects of Pasco are brought into one place. “Holiday, New Port Richey and Trinity are all kind of broken up, so an event like this is really good to bring everyone in the community together”. When we talk about the community, Chasco does a great benefit for many local charitable organizations.

Chasco Fiesta celebrates all of the well known people in New Port Richey’s history; one of those well known people includes Dr. Edwin C. Brookman, one of New Port Richey’s first physicians in 1950. 

Austin describes Chasco as a “guardian angel” for some organizations because they rely on the funds they receive from Chasco to last them for their year-round operating expenses. She added, “We plan on making Chasco bigger and better every year, it’s our responsibility as long as I am head of the committee to make sure that happens.”

Chasco Fiesta features pictures and memorabilia of well known people from the past.

Video: Community of Tarpon Springs gathers to commemorate Greek independence with day of celebration

TARPON SPRINGS — A sea of blue and white engulfed the streets March 22 as hundreds gathered to celebrate Greece’s independence from the Ottoman Empire.

The event commemorated the 194th anniversary of the Greek Independence Day and Greek War of Independence, which took place from 1821-1832.

Tarpon Springs has the largest percentage of Greek Americans of any city in the U.S. But the festivities draw visitors from all over the state to the downtown sponge docks.

“We’re going to prosper, Tarpon, with our great heritage and our love and care for the community,” said Manoli Stavrakis, president of the Young Adult League from the St. George Greek Orthodox Church.

Although the official date for Greek Independence is March 25, many large cities around the U.S. celebrate it the weekend before.

And celebrate Tarpon Springs did, showcasing Greek songs, dances and food while as revelers paraded through downtown to greet spectators.

Dimitri Kalogiannis, who retrieved the Epiphany cross from the chilly waters of Spring Bayou in 2010,  enjoys the event.

“It’s a beautiful day out here in Tarpon Springs,” Kalogiannis said. “We all come out here to celebrate our Greek heritage and have a good time.”

Video: Christopher Hethcox turns lifelong passion for cheerleading into remarkable career

TRINITY — As an aspiring male cheerleading coach, Christopher Hethcox seemingly had the odds stacked against him early in life.

“The stigma of being a male cheerleader was something that was rough in the rural parts of Alabama,” Hethcox said.

But Hethcox didn’t let it bring him down. At age 13, Hethcox knew he had a passion for tumbling and gymnastics.

Twenty-two years later, Hethcox has turned that passion into a career as an instructor with All-Star Cheerleading at the Suncoast Gymnastics Academy in Odessa.

Though the profession does not necessarily have a large salary, Hethcox said he isn’t in it for the money — he just wants to help his athletes grow.

“I think I love the process of the training, performing, watching the development over the year of an athlete that’s had this place where they started,” Hethcox said.  “And then, where they end up.”

Hethcox coaches multiple levels of cheerleading with All-Star Cheerleading and has won multiple championships.

Competing at that level, Hethcox said,  is something that can give competitors butterflies. But for him, it’s all about keeping his team calm.

Mark Sczcepanik, whose daughter is coached by Hethcox, described him as passionate and driven.

“Coach Chris has done an incredible job with our daughter,” Sczcepanik said. “She went from never cheering ever six months ago to just doing an incredible job, thanks to his fine coaching.”

Hethcox doesn’t need praise, though. He just wants it to be about the kids.

“I want them to become sisters that they would do anything for each other,” Hethcox said.

Tarpon Springs church commemorates annual Epiphany celebration


Tarpon Springs is not your typical town. Known for its world-famous Sponge Docks, Tarpon harbors the largest Greek community within the U.S.

“In Tarpon Springs, we’re basically one big Greek family; we grew up together, go to church together, we fight and we argue, but at the end of the day, we all end up partying together,” Tarpon resident Kosta Pstefelis said.

In the heart of Tarpon Springs lies the St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church, which commemorates the annual Epiphany celebration.

Pstefelis calls it “our way of showing off Greek Orthodoxy to the world.”

Pstefelis and fellow resident Niko Mahairas were two of the 50 teens to dive for the cross at this year’s event.

“It’s something everyone should experience, religious or not. The event is always a good time for everyone,” Mahairas said.

Celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ, 50 Greek boys, ages 16 through 18, dive into the water in hopes of retrieving a cross. Retrieval of the cross signifies a year of good luck for that individual.

“Everyone wants to be the kid that catches the cross,” Pstefelis said.

Luckily, this year he was able to do just that, describing it as a “once in a lifetime experience, something my family needed.”