NEW PORT RICHEY – The Chasco Fiesta is a no-go for a second consecutive year because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Public gatherings of any size continue to be difficult to organize and pull off more than 10 months after coronavirus-related shutdown and restriction enforcement began. Large events like Chasco Fiesta face long odds, not only because of the number of people they attract, but because of the logistics behind scheduling and planning something that operates every day for more than a week.
“Regretfully, Chasco Fiesta is going to be cancelled in 2021,” New Port Richey City Councilman Chopper Davis said during last week’s meeting of the Pasco County Tourist Development Council.
When asked by Pasco County Commissioner Mike Moore if there is any possibility for Chasco to be postponed and operated at a later date in 2021, Davis said that’s not likely an option. “It takes six months of planning,” Davis said. “It’s not that we couldn’t do it, and a lot of people might be vaccinated by then, but they need planning time.”
Speaking over the phone last week, New Port Richey Mayor Rob Marlowe confirmed that declaration, stating that the city and organizers of Chasco Fiesta have been in communication.
“I think the Chasco folks recognized that it just wasn’t going to work this year anymore than it would have last spring, unfortunately,” Marlowe said, noting that the city is not authorizing any large events at the moment.
The cancelation of Chasco Fiesta 2020 came just weeks prior to the kickoff of an event that takes place annually at the end of March and beginning of April. Last year would have marked the 74th consecutive Chasco Fiesta, dating back to 1947. The inaugural Chasco Fiesta took place in 1922.
“It’s disappointing for me, personally, because I do love Chasco,” said Marlowe, a New Port Richey native. “I volunteer each year; you’ll find me at the information booth. It’s a great, great public event. That’s why I was hoping we can reschedule it into the fall when it should be safe, but they made the point if they did that they wouldn’t be able to get themselves ready to do it in the spring of 2022.”
Chasco Fiesta is the area’s signature event each year and attracts hundreds of thousands of people over nine days to downtown New Port Richey, Sims Park and along the Pithlachascotee River. The 2019 event attracted record crowds and featured live concerts from 1970s and 80s pop star Eddie Money and rising country star Michael Ray. The 2020 concert schedule featured former Poison frontman Bret Michaels and country star John Michael Montgomery.
In addition to the street and boat parades, carnivals, concerts, Native American festivals and other related activities, Chasco Fiesta generates hundreds of thousands of dollars for local charities and nonprofit organizations.
“It’s a boon to the community and it’s a boon to a whole bunch of nonprofits that depend on it for their budgeting,” Marlowe said of Chasco’s impact.
Chasco Fiesta organizers and its steering committee are working to salvage something from 2021, Marlowe said. “They’re planning on doing some smaller things that will be less risky, including a car show on Memorial Day weekend.”
Other individual features of regular Chasco Fiestas, such as golf, bowling and fishing tournaments, may take place throughout the year, as well, Marlowe said.
“I’m disappointed but I understand that it’s not safe,” Marlowe said. “The city recognizes that; the Chasco committee recognizes that. We just need to regroup, get everybody vaccinated, get this virus behind us, and go forward in 2022 bigger and better than ever. I’m looking forward to it.”