Sgt. Dwayne Somers gives out T-shirts to children caught wearing a life vest during the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office Operation Kid Float conducted by the marine unit.
Fewer people will be traveling for the Labor Day weekend, and the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office is making plans to make sure those celebrating close to home stay safe.
According to a survey by AAA South, for the tri-state area of Florida, Georgia and Tennessee, a 22 percent decrease in travel is anticipated. Nationwide, a decrease of 13.3 percent is anticipated.
Gregg Laskoski, managing director of public relations for AAA, said a variety of factors contributed to more people deciding to stay close to home this year. He also said that despite an expected down trend in travel, Labor Day 2009 is projected to be the third busiest of the decade.
“Part of the picture is that the last time Labor Day was this late in the year was 1998,” Laskoski said. “More families are back into a routine due to school starting and may be less willing to plan a trip.”
The economy is another factor keeping people closer to home, although gas prices are a little more than a dollar less a gallon this year as compared to last.
“There’s a greater interest by the consumer of rediscovering things to do in their own backyard,” he said. “Visit Florida has an impressive campaign highlighting travel destinations here.”
The Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office is well aware that more people will be staying home or taking day trips to enjoy the county’s beaches and waterways.
Cecilia Barreda, a public information specialist with the sheriff’s office, said the marine unit would be out in full force making sure everyone stays safe on the water. She said all the deputies assigned to that unit would be on duty and some deputies assigned to the patrol unit would be riding with them.
Deputies will be looking for impaired boaters, under age drinking and looking to make sure people are operating their vessels in a safe manner, she said.
Deputies also will be making safety inspections and talking with boaters to increase safety awareness.
Barreda said if deputies see kids wearing their life jackets, they’ll be stopping the vessels to give away T-shirts that say ‘I was caught by the sheriff’s office wearing a life vest.’
She said boaters who were following the rules shouldn’t feel nervous if they’re stopped on the water over the Labor Day weekend. She said deputies would be making routine stops to do safety checks and give out T-shirts and talk about water safety.
“This will be a big boating weekend,” she said. “It’s the last official weekend holiday of summer.”
Although the sheriff’s traffic enforcement unit is no more due to budget cuts, Barreda said deputies would still be out on the roads trying to keep everyone as safe as possible. She said they would be looking for the same thing deputies were looking for on the water: impaired drivers and drivers operating their vehicles in an unsafe manner.”
Laskoski encourages Floridians to get out and enjoy the Labor Day weekend. He said there were some great deals for the fall season and encouraged people to shop around for the best rates.
“This will be a great weekend to get out and enjoy what the local area has to offer,” he said.
Happenings around Pinellas
- GULFPORT - Ninth annual Gulfport Gecko Fest is Saturday, Sept. 5, noon to 10 p.m., along Beach Boulevard in Gulfport. The free event will bring together strolling street performers, main stage performers and vendors. More than 170 vendors are expected. Featured performers will include belly dancers, Troupe Zahara, Barnaby the clown, Kim the magician, the Village Villains, Mime Your Own Business and West Coast Mutineers. Live entertainment will be presented on three stages. Festivities will culminate in a street dance beginning at 8 p.m. Visit www.gulfportma.com.
- TREASURE ISLAND – Beach Blast is on Saturday, Sept. 5, behind the Bilmar Beach Resort at Gulf Boulevard and 106th Avenue in Treasure Island offers a day and evening of music, food, arts and crafts, and children’s activities. The free event goes from noon to 10 p.m. Parking will be available on the beach for $10. Enter the beach lot at 112th Avenue and Gulf Boulevard, across from Waffle House.
Children’s activities are scheduled from noon to 4 p.m. and include a sand sculpturing contest, wellness and fitness classes, hula monsters, Hawaiian war canoes supplied by Kai Aniani Canoe Club, Hawaiian Dream Dancers, Stand Up Paddling presented by Stand Up Fitness, and the No. 1 Tampa Bay Buccaneers fan – Big Nasty.
Preregistration is preferred for the sand sculpturing contest by contacting the Treasure Island Chamber of Commerce at 360-4121 or at www.treasureislandchamber.com. A minimal entry fee is required for the sand sculpting and proceeds will be donated to the All Children’s Hospital Guild Beach Branch. Sculptures will be judged by Sanding Ovations, world champion sculptors.
The music lineup is: noon to 4 p.m., DJ, Soft Rock Renegades; 4 to 6:30 p.m., Upfront Band, rock and roll; 7 to 10 p.m., Motel Funk, funk, pop and rock. A fireworks show is set for 9 p.m. For more information, call 360-4121.
- CLEARWATER - Shephard’s Beach Resort on Clearwater Beach will host two legendary old school rappers, Vanilla Ice and Rob Base on Sunday Sept. 6, 2009 during a Labor Day weekend-long event called the “Shephard’s Old Skool Labor Day Weekend.”
Besides the legendary rap artists, the weekend will consist of a graffiti artist painting live on site and troupes of professional break dancers. “Old Skool” apparel is recommended (pull out your parachute pants and fat boy laces). For more information, visit www.oldskoolweekend.com.
- ST. PETE BEACH - The Tampa Bay Beaches Chamber of Commerce is hosting a special Labor Day weekend fireworks display from behind Tradewinds Island Grand Resort on St. Pete Beach, the fireworks will begin shortly after dusk, about 9 p.m.
- OLDSMAR - Celebrate Oldsmar with an evening of live music, fireworks, rides for the kids and more on Saturday, Sept. 5, 5 to 9 p.m. at R.E. Olds Park, 107 Shore Drive. For more information, call 813-749-1260.
- LARGO - Train Weekend is Saturday and Sunday, Sept. 5 and 6, 10 a.m. until 4 p.m., Largo Central Park, 101 Central Park Drive. Ride the miniature trains of Largo Central Railroad on the first full weekend every month in sunny Largo Central Park. For a schedule of dates as well as pictures from this event, please go to the Largoevents.com. There is no charge for this family-fun activity, but donations are expected to help keep the trains running. For more information, visit Largo Events.com or call 587-6775.
- ST. PETERSBURG - The Tampa Bay Rays take on the Detroit Tigers at Tropicana Field on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, Sept. 4-6. Game time is 7:38 p.m. on Friday; 7:08 p.m. on Saturday; and 1:38 p.m. on Sunday.
Saturday’s game includes the final performance in the Summer Concert Series as the Beach Boys take the field following the game. For information or tickets visit www.raysbaseball.com or call -800-FAN-RAYS.
- ST. PETERSBURG - A guided hike is set for Saturday, Sept. 5, 9 to 11 a.m., at Weedon Island Preserve, 1800 Weedon Drive N.E. Learn about the coastal environment and the preserve’s early residents from expert guides while hiking through the preserve’s coastal mangrove and upland ecosystems. Reservations must be made by Friday, Sept. 4, 2 p.m.
Admission is free. To register, call 453-6500.
An opening reception for two new art exhibits is set for Sunday, Sept. 6, 1 to 3 p.m., at Weedon Island Preserve. Both exhibits will be on display through Sunday, Nov. 1. Admission is free. Call 453-6500.
The Facets of Florida 2007-09 Exhibition will showcase Misty Beauchamp’s oils and mixed media. Beauchamp’s paintings focus on conservation and depict scenes of Florida that are rapidly vanishing.
The Florida Wildbirds and Habitats Exhibition will feature Maxis Gamez’s wildlife photography. Gamez’s style of wildlife photography expresses creativity and interesting techniques as it captures nature and wildlife.
- TARPON SPRINGS – A guided hike is set for Saturday, Sept. 5, 9 to 11 a.m., at Brooker Creek Preserve, 3940 Keystone Road. Take part in a guided hike along the Brooker Creek Preserve Education Trail and observe how the land has changed over time and discuss the ecological footprints left by those changes. All ages are welcome, but children younger than 6 may find the free hike challenging. Preregistration is required by noon on Friday, Sept. 4. Call 453-6800.
An opening reception for the new exhibit Florida: Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow, will be Sunday, Sept. 6, 1 to 4 p.m., at Brooker Creek Preserve, 3940 Keystone Road. Meet artists representing The Art Cloth Alliance, a group of 13 Tampa Bay fiber artists. The artists will talk about their work and about the unique process using art cloth. The free event is suitable for adults and children ages 12 and older. Call 453-6800.
- ST. PETERSBURG - On Saturday, Sept. 5, start the day with the Suncoast Corvette Show, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. at The Pier, 800 2nd Ave. N.E. Then stop by the Pier Aquarium for FISH-ful Saturday, noon to 2 p.m., to celebrate the year of the fish and the fascinating fish of Tampa Bay.
Other activities planned at The Pier on Saturday include face painting by Joanne Cote and family fun activities with Fritzy Brothers One Man Circus from 1 to 4 p.m.
On Labor Day, Sept. 7, enjoy a performance by Salsa En St. Pete from 4:30 to 8:30 p.m.