THINGS TO DO THIS WEEKEND IN TAMPA BAY
The events and descriptions below were compiled by Tampa Bay Times entertainment and events reporter Sharon Wynne. To check out all of the weekend events courtesy of the Tampa Bay Times, click here.
Florida Strawberry Festival
When the Florida Strawberry Festival returns to Plant City this weekend, you can snag shortcakes, fair food, and two dozen top-notch concerts packed into its 10-day schedule of music. The Tampa Bay Times' pop music critic has ranked the top 24 acts to see at the Strawberry Fest this year:
Among the top picks: Lynyrd Skynyrd, Rascal Flatts, Reba McEntire, Patti LaBelle, 98 Degrees, and more! For a full schedule of events, see flstrawberryfestival.com.
Florida Orchestra: Who better to headline your shows about space than an actual astronaut? Luckily, the Florida Orchestra happens to have one in its backyard. Clearwater native Nicole Stott, who recently appeared in a Super Bowl ad, will appear at the orchestra's "Out of This World" program, featuring interstellar selections from Star Trek, Star Wars, E.T., Holst's The Planets and more. Sarah Hicks conducts the program, which will be enhanced by images and videos from space. 8 p.m. Friday at the Straz Center in Tampa, 8 p.m. Saturday at the Mahaffey Theater in St. Petersburg.
Bob Weir and Wolf Bros: Attention Dead Heads. Grateful Dead guitarist Bob Weir and his side band Wolf Bros, a.k.a. Bassist-superproducer Don Was and Ratdog drummer Jay Lane. It's never going to be the Dead without Jerry, but Weir, 72, has been mixing Dead favorites like Scarlett Begonias, Ripple, and Jack Straw into his Wolf Bros setlists. You might even get a Truckin' or Touch of Grey. 5:30 p.m. Sunday at Jannus Live.
John Tesh's: On Tuesday, Tesh released a new memoir, Relentless: Unleashing a Life of Purpose, Grit, and Faith, in which he talks about his days as a homeless 20-year-old, his rise as an Emmy-winning TV and radio personality and his recovery from prostate cancer. And on Friday, he'll take the stage for an evening of songs and stories at the David A. Straz Jr. Center for the Performing Arts. You'll hear it all straight from Tesh himself, seated behind a grand piano. The show is at 7:30 p.m. Friday.
Gladys Knight: The Midnight Train to Georgia legend and Rock and Roll Hall of Fame soul queen remains revered by even the diva-est of divas — she sang at Aretha Franklin's funeral — is 75, let's stand and salute her while we can. The show is Tuesday at Ruth Eckerd Hall.
St. Petersburg Jazz Festival: The Clearwater Jazz Holiday may be bigger, but purists still bemoan its drift toward popular music and away from traditional jazz. For them, may we recommend the St. Petersburg Jazz Festival? The fest continues all weekend with the Conglomerate (today), Leon Foster Thomas with Tal Cohen (Friday), Alexis Cole with the Helios Jazz Orchestra (Saturday), and Jason Charos with the Booker Little Project (Sunday). 7:30 nightly. Head to the Palladium to check it out.
Sleeping Beauty: Watch as graceful dancers from the Russian National Ballet present Sleeping Beauty to a score composed by Tchaikovsky at Ruth Eckerd Hall on Saturday.
The Office: A Musical Parody: It's hard to imagine how to parody The Office. Find out when the unauthorized musical version comes to the Capitol Theatre. Mashable called it the "world's most elaborate inside joke," and with musical numbers titled That's What She Said and The Dundies, that seems to be true. 8 p.m. Friday-Saturday, 4 p.m. Saturday.
The UniverSoul Circus: A traveling circus with international roots brings artful feats of strength, jump-roping dogs, trapeze work, and dance to a tent in the parking lot of Brandon Westfield Town Center Mall through Sunday. "A cadre of hip-hop clowns and a trio of polished ringmasters stitch the whole thing into a show that has the crowd dancing, singing, laughing and screaming together," the Chicago Tribune wrote of the troupe's recent stop there. See it at the Brandon Town Center.
Colin Quinn: S.N.L.'s former Weekend Update host turns his gruff voice on the ills of modern society in a show dubbed The Wrong Side of History, setting up shop on the intimate Murray Theatre stage at Ruth Eckerd Hall. 7:30 p.m. on Friday.
Steve Byrne: Byrne has toured with comics like Kevin James and Russell Peters and co-created the sitcom Sullivan and Son. But lately, he has pivoted toward filmmaking, directing a documentary on the Amazing Johnathan and an upcoming comedy called The Opening Act. Still a funny standup, though. 8 and 10:30 p.m. Friday, 7:30 and 10 p.m. Saturday at the Improv.
Jo Koy: Four packed theaters in two nights? You don't have to be a math whiz to know that's a lot of tickets. But Tampa Theatre just couldn't put them on sale fast enough for Koy, the globe-trotting comic who has gone from being a Chelsea Lately regular to one of the most reliable draws in the biz. 7 and 10 p.m. Saturday, 7:30 and 10:30 p.m. Sunday.
FESTIVALS AND BLOCK PARTIES
Busch Gardens Food and Wine Festival: The annual Busch Gardens Food and Wine Festival of foodie delights opens Saturday with a concert by Collective Soul. This year brings another large selection of wines, craft brews and cocktails, and a variety of food cabins around the park. Some of the new food items include espresso-rubbed beef tenderloin served over white truffle mash, Kung Pao ribs, charred Brussels sprouts with a warm bacon vinaigrette and — keeping with the bacon trend — shrimp bacon fritters and a new maple bacon cinnamon roll. Old favorites are returning, like the bacon mac and cheese and the griddled pound cake, which is like a grilled cheese sandwich, except it has a cream cheese filling and is topped with raspberry coulis. Sampler lanyards that bring the price of items down to $5 or $6 each are $32 to $57 for food or drink items and good for the duration of the festival. Insider's tip: The lanyards are a better value for food since the drinks are smaller sampler size. The concert lineup this year features the Commodores (Sunday), Fitz and the Tantrums (March 22), Third Eye Blind (April 4), Clint Black (April 19), Lee Brice (April 18), Rachel Platten (March 8), Taking Back Sunday (March 29) and Toad the Wet Sprocket with the Verve Pipe (April 26). The festival runs weekends through April 26.
Florida's Gulf Coast EggFest: The contest challenges teams of pitmasters and barbecue beginners to a cook-off on demo Big Green Egg grills, which the public can pre-purchase at a discount for a limited time through flgulfcoasteggfest.com. You're invited to sample the entries and vote for your favorite. Judging ends at 2:30 p.m., with the awards scheduled for 5. The competition also doubles as an all-around celebration of grilling, live music, and the great outdoors. In addition to a barbecue seminar, vendors, kids' activities, and games are in store. Benefits Mary Lee's House and U.S.O. Central Florida. 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturday at Tabllas at Delaney Creek.
Tampa Taco Fest: This returns for a second year with a family and dog-friendly look forward to several taco vendors churning out everything from classic takes to fusion twists on the popular menu item, as well as free margarita tastings. V.I.P. sold out. $5 in advance, $10 at the door, 12 and younger free. 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturday at Al Lopez Park.
Gasparilla Festival of the Arts: This is a true Tampa tradition that's celebrating 50 years. Quite symbolically, this Leap Day, the festival moves across the river from Curtis Hixon Park to its new location, Julian B. Lane Waterfront Park. The space is about double that of Curtis Hixon, which allows for more activities, more food and drink vendors, and better parking options. In addition to the 235 exhibiting artists, the Emerging Artist Showcase returns this year, with the addition of the inaugural Local Artist Spotlight, in which three local artists exhibit free of a booth charge. Favorite activities return, including the art car Carmada, and word has it that Chad Mize will paint his signature doodle style on a white 1983 Porsche. New this year is the Grady Goat Foundation's Project G.O.A.T., which brings 50 artist-embellished statues of goats to the festival grounds, as well as live painting. Live music and entertainment will be emceed by Denis Phillips, chief meteorologist at A.B.C. Action News. 9 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Sunday.
Hot Air Balloon Festival: Watch the Lakeland skyline transform into a mix of bright, brilliant colors as hot air balloons launch from the Sun n' Fun Expo Campus. The event includes a kids zone, live music, helicopter rides, mimosa and beer garden, and tethered balloon rides available for purchase. At sunset, balloons will cap off the day by simultaneously firing their burners, lighting up the concourse to music like giant light bulbs. $15; $20 for a three-day pass. 2-10 p.m. Friday, 7 a.m.-10 p.m. Saturday, 7 a.m.-8 p.m. Sunday.
Nude Nite: Nude Nite Tampa, the annual collection of body-focused art, now in its 15th year, takes the human form as an inspiration for art. But it's also a fun date night with burlesque, body painting, and art installations. The popup location is in a 20,000-square-foot warehouse behind Tampa's Columbus Plaza with more than 200 nude artworks for sale from artists around the country. In addition to the art, there are interactive installations, performance artists, acrobats, stilt walkers, aerialists, and painted characters. The female-owned operation maintains a gender-equal model ratio, which means for every nude female, there is a male. The organizers also like to stress, "Nude Nite models are all sizes, colors and genders," so you come away feeling hot with what you've got. It starts at 6 p.m. today through Saturday.
Skateboard Tampa Pro: One of the top competitions of the year for professional skateboarders, Tampa Pro returns to the Skatepark of Tampa today through Sunday with numerous parties and tournaments. New this year is the first Women's Open with female pros and top amateurs competing for a $2,500 top prize. Things kick off with a welcome party today. The Bro Bowl Bash at Perry Harvey Sr. Park in Tampa will have trick contests and a welcome party. Competition begins Friday at SPoT with qualifiers and an open bar at 6 p.m. and an after-party at the Bricks in Ybor, 1327 E Seventh Ave., where a $10 suggested donation will go toward the Boards for Bros charity. Saturday and Sunday will have a live webcast of the competition and after-parties. Admission is $10-$20 daily, $35 for the whole weekend.
THIS WEEK IN DRESS UP
Bay Area Renaissance Festival: We've already talked about how the humans dress up when they go to the RenFest. This weekend's theme is Pirates and Pups, and for $10 you can bring your dog along for a pet costume contest or wiener dog races and catch up with pet rescue organizations. Fill out a pet registration form on the festival's website and bring a photo and shot records of your dog. $22.95, $18.95 senior, $14.95 5-12, 4 and younger free. The festival runs weekends through March 29.