NEW PORT RICHEY — In 1969, hundreds of thousands of people flocked to one of the biggest musical events in history. Fifty years later, what was billed as the Woodstock Music and Arts Festival, was celebrated at the 2019 KiaFest Main Street Blast in Sims Park.
On June 28-29, local and traveling bands took to the stage to put on a show for people as they enjoyed the festivities, despite the on-and-off rain showers of the sort experience half a century ago at the mammoth outdoor concert in Bethel, New York.
At KiaFest, there were around 50 vendors who set up tents, as well as a kids zone, a beer garden and Miss Daisy Boat Tours along the Pithlachascotee River.
On Friday, the tribute show Peace of Woodstock was performed, followed by Supernatural, a Santana tribute.
Saturday had hours of live music with acts such as Julie Black, Barefoot Bob & The Hope, The Wholigans, a The Who tribute band, and Kiss The Sky, a tribute to Jimi Hendrix, whose wailing rendition of the “Star Spangled Banner” came near the end of the event.
Besides the music, the fireworks on Saturday night are one of the highlights every year, bringing the Fourth of July flair to the city a few days before the national holiday. Veterans Alternative, a Holiday based organization, had a tent near the lake for veterans to watch the fireworks show.
Liz Misemer started in February as the executive director of New Port Richey Main Street, the organizer of KiaFest Main Street Blast, making this her first time planning the Independence Day-themed celebration.
She said, “It’s exciting because people really look forward to it all year round.”
She gives a lot of credit to the Friendly Kia owner, John Gilliss, especially because he came up with the Woodstock theme.
“He thought it would be fun to tie it together. Kind of an All-American fun celebration,” Misemer said. “It just kind of made it a neat theme to run with.”
“We encouraged our vendors to be patriotic or do Woodstock,” Misemer said. “It’s mostly been the music from that era.”
She added, “New Port Richey Main Street is proud to be a part of KiaFest and we appreciate John Gilliss and Friendly Kia for all they do for our community and putting on this event.”
The Kia dealership in New Port Richey and Duke Energy Florida were the main sponsors of KiaFest.
Benjamin Jeffrey, a 15-year-old River Ridge High School Student, isn’t a volunteer for any specific organization or club, but he still lent a helping hand.
“I’m doing this just because,” the volunteer said.
Jeffrey’s grandfather has been a volunteer with KiaFest for years and he wanted to work alongside him.
“I like the idea that I’m a tribute to this and I can put a smile on people’s faces,” Jeffrey said.
Lynn Tab scoped out the event before she planned on returning later that night with friends. At noon, her only company was her dog, Cupcake. Cupcake and Tab regularly venture to Sims Park for their walks.
“I come here all the time, I love this park,” Tab said.
During the event, a trolley was used to transport people from the three parking lots of First Methodist Church.
The other sponsors were the city of New Port Richey, Roman Plumbing, Doran, Beam & Farrell, P.A., Great Bay Distributors, Progressive Air Systems, David Dorsey C.P.A., P.A., and Family Benefit Services.