Doreen Armillei and her husband, Ron, were grabbing a bite to eat as they waited for things to get started at the Land O’ Lakes Spring Music Festival & Expo, presented by the Central Pasco Chamber of Commerce.
The Land O’ Lakes couple came out to the concert for a simple reason.
“I wanted to see Taylor Hicks,” Doreen said.
“I like his personality very much,” Doreen added, noting she became a fan while watching Hicks compete and ultimately win Season 5 of American Idol.
Karen Twilla, another Land O’ Lakes resident, came to the concert with her husband, daughter and a couple of friends. She, too, appreciates Hicks.
“I’ve seen him in Tampa. I’ve seen him in New York City, when he was in ‘Grease.’ We’ve seen him in Las Vegas and here,” she said, noting she also watched him on American Idol.
She enjoys Hicks’ music, but is even more impressed by his character.
“He’s just a fine gentleman. He just loves his music. I love his heart,” Twilla said.
They weren’t the only ones attracted to the March 11 concert. People were waiting in line before the gates opened at 6 p.m.
And, when they got in, there was plenty of room to spread out blankets and set up lawn chairs on the spacious grounds at the Fraternal Order of Police Pasco Lodge 29 property at 21735 YMCA Camp Road.
While some settled onto blankets, or claimed seats in the reserved section, others stationed themselves on boats — on Bell Lake, which borders the property — to take advantage of the spring concert.
The aroma of barbecue filled the air, and there were vendors selling Cajun food, funnel cakes, fried Oreos and other foods.
The evening concert enjoyed “chamber of commerce weather,” in the words of Elayne Bassinger, president of the Central Pasco Chamber of Commerce.
Although the March 11 concert was sold out, attendance was lighter than expected. Apparently those purchasing tickets gave them to people who decided not to use them, Bassinger said.
But, the chamber president was pleased by the event’s organization, led by Suzanne Beauchaine and David Gainer.
“It’s a lot of pieces to put together,” Bassinger said.
“We had an excellent turnout of volunteers,” she added. And, generous sponsors made the event a success, despite the empty seats, she noted.
Bassinger said she also heard positive feedback from people who attended the concert, who told her that it’s the kind of event that Land O’ Lakes has been needing.
She believes the event will grow every year, and that it will become a signature event for Land O’ Lakes.
“That’s our plan, to bring in different entertainment each year,” Bassinger said.
She also offered some kind words about Hicks.
“He is such an awesome, kind person. You could not ask for someone to be a nicer person. He’s all about his fans,” she said. “He’s handsome, on top of that,” Bassinger said.
On March 12, the event featured local musicians, food vendors, activities for the kids and a business expo, with scores of local businesses offering information about their goods and services.
Besides adding music this year, the event also involved a new location for the business expo, which previously was at the Land O’Lakes Recreation Complex.
Event co-chairs Beauchaine and Gainer said they will be analyzing what worked and what didn’t.
“We’re using this as a learning experience,” Beauchaine said. “We want this to be an annual event. We’re going to take what we learn from it, and make it bigger and better.”
Gainer added: “Honestly, we were hoping we just got people to come out the first year and see what this was about. It takes a little time to build momentum.”
Published March 16, 2016