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Belleair celebrates spring, Arbor Day
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Belleair residents Barbara Hicks and granddaughter Alexandria, 8, pose with their new pine tree at Belleair’s Springfest celebration.
BELLEAIR – They call it Springfest in Belleair and hundreds of people, mostly children, showed up for a morning of fun and frolic. It is a celebration of spring and the cornerstone of the day is Arbor Day.

Belleair is a Tree City USA and prides itself on its landscaping and care of trees throughout the community. Children attending Springfest March 30 got a chance to pot their own plants, courtesy of the Belleair Garden Club, and adults got to bring home a small tree to plant. Christine White of Belleair Beach managed to get a tree and she said she was delighted with the entire event.

“It is wonderful and we come every year,” she said. “We’ve been here for seven years in a row now. It is nice to see the community get out to meet one another. The kids really enjoy it.”

Looking around the big field next to the Community Center in Belleair people quickly realize it is all about the kids. Debi Goral of Largo was there with her two daughters and their friend from Belleair.

I love it, I’ve been coming here for years,” she said. “It is not too crowded and there is good stuff here for all ages. It is a nice local event where the children can get to see their school friends and other people they know.”

Belleair Recreation Director Eric Wahlbeck was pleased with what his staff put together.

“This is a great turnout and the weather is perfect,” he said. “The Civic Association upped their support of the event so we were able to add some things this year including a larger touch-a-truck display.”

In fact the touch-a-truck was so big they closed off Verona Street so they could park extra vehicles for the children to touch and climb on.

As for how long Springfest has been going on in Belleair, Wahlbeck didn’t know, but he made an educated guess.

“Who knows, two thousand years maybe,” he said laughing. “Seriously though, I used to come here as a kid. That’s how long it has been. I’m 31 now so this has been going on for at least 27 years.”

In addition to the Easter egg hunt and the egg toss competition and the other fun events for the children there was a serious side to Springfest beyond Arbor Day. Last year the town instituted the Environmental Stewardship Award, given to a person or organization that displays concern and care for the environment. Last year the Garden Club won the award; this year it was presented to the Belleair Community Foundation.

The foundation is embarking on a project to transform Hunter Memorial Park into a memorial for veterans. When complete the park will be completely revamped. Karla Rettstatt is the president of BCF and said the idea of stewardship was something that just grew as they went along.

“We’re very excited about getting the award,” she said. “It grew from our plans to change the park into a stewardship for the town. We’re pleased to accept the award.”

Rettstatt said her organization is going to step up its membership drive in the next two weeks. She had pledged that all the money for the nearly $500,000 project will be in hand before work is begun.

Among those who had received a tree for Arbor Day was Barbara Hicks of Belleair. She was there with her granddaughter Alexandria. She perhaps best echoed the sentiments of the crowd in saying that it was a good day.

“It is better than ever, it is the best year,” she said. “It is well set up, they make it easy. We come every year and would I come again. Absolutely, are you kidding me?”
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