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Dancers woo at Winterfest on the Rocks
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Members of the dance troupe Pandemonium perform at Winterfest on the Rocks Feb. 16 at Calvary Episcopal Church in Indian Rocks Beach.
INDIAN ROCKS BEACH – A different kind of dance troupe delighted attendees Feb. 16 at Winterfest on the Rocks, which has been celebrated for 12 years at Calvary Episcopal Church.

Shortly after the event began at 11 a.m., a crowd gathered around the side entrance to the church where a group of young people were dancing to various types of music and their gyrations were attention-getting.

The troupe consisted of a dozen dancers, male and female, from all over Pinellas County. Perry Garcia was one of them, and he said they weren’t restricted to any single form of dance.

“I’d call it all-style dancing,” he said. “We even had some ballet mixed in there. We hear music, and it is magic and we just go with it. I guess we do a bit of everything except maybe country.”

Among the people watching was Sue Sims who came to the festival from Pinellas Park. She was delighted.

“I thought the break-dancing was amazing,” she said. “I never saw people move like that.”

Sims also liked everything else she saw at the festival.

“This is the best festival ever,” she said. “I notice they are collecting food for the needy so not only is this fun but it is good for the community.”

Winterfest, which features vendors selling arts and crafts and food, was created to fill a void in the activities calendar of Indian Rocks Beach. Father Bob Wagenseil, the pastor of Calvary Episcopal, said it is always held on President’s Day weekend because there wasn’t much else going on. He said the event is held to help bring the community closer.

“We try to bring as many community organizations together as we can,” he said. “It is not unusual to see community leaders show up to cook hot dogs or flip burgers.”

A big part of the event every year is the pet parade. Residents dress up their pets then, following bag pipers, parade them along the perimeter of the festival grounds. Fred and Linda Brown have been bringing their dog Willie to the parade for the past five years. Willie is a Border collie and when he was a puppy won the most congenial prize in the parade.

“I’m not sure he deserved the prize because he’s a little frisky,” said Brown. “However, he won it and we’ve been back ever since.”

The Browns are winter visitors from Maine and Winterfest is part of their annual ritual.

“Every year we come to the festival here in Indian Rocks Beach,” he said. “When we came to Florida for the first time we landed here and we haven’t looked at a different city since.”

Sitting at a table waiting for food nearby were Janice and Ken Lowe of Rhode Island. They too have a love affair with Indian Rocks Beach.

“We love it here. This is the best beach city in Florida,” said Mrs. Lowe. “And we love this festival. It is very enjoyable. We love the dog parade and everyone is friendly here. This seems bigger than last year.”

Among the many vendors were Donna and Tom Herman, who operate their Climbing Earrings booth. Winterfest has been good to them.

“We do very well here,” said Donna. “This is our third year here and I must say it is very organized. We definitely will be back.”

All was not necessarily perfect at this year’s event however. The weather turned wet and cold during the afternoon and Father Wagenseil attributed a smaller crowd this year than in the recent past to the weather.

“Financially we’re not quite sure yet but I think we’re down a bit from last year,” he said. “The weather played into that quite heavily. When it began to rain the crowd thinned out. Then when it stopped they came back.”

Father Wagenseil made sure to thank Guppy’s restaurant, which donates considerable money to help offset expenses. But he said the money made at the event is not really what it is about.

“This is all about bringing the community together,” he said. “And we tried to the best of our ability to do that, and that’s fine because that’s what matters most. A lot of people in the community stepped forward to lend a hand and make this a special Indian Rocks Beach celebration.”

Winterfest annually supports the Beach Community Food Pantry and the Indian Rocks Volunteer Firemen’s association.
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