PALM HARBOR — It’s nearly impossible to tell today, but the citrus industry, including groves and a railside packing house, used to be a major economic player in Palm Harbor.
That’s not the case today, as developers spent decades reshaping all of Pinellas into the state’s most densely populated county, but a local event is back to help remind residents of the area’s past.
Well, that and to just have a few days of fun in downtown Palm Harbor.
The Palm Harbor Citrus Festival begins its sixth year Thursday evening and features four days of activities, contests, music and food.
“This is definitely an event that’s looked forward to,” said Greater Palm Harbor Area Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Connie Davis. “It’s a community event and we’re continually developing it.”
The most noticeable feature will be the carnival rides transforming downtown Palm Harbor into a mini amusement park for all four days.
Two popular events — Dancing with the Palm Harbor Stars and the Citrus Queen Pageant — are also back.
Preliminaries for the dancing contest will be at 6 p.m. on Thursday at Harbor Hall, 1190 Georgia Ave., and the finals begin at 1:30 p.m. Saturday on the outdoor main stage.
The Thursday dinner-dance event will be catered by Lee Roy Selmon’s Restaurant and tickets are available for $25. Attendees receive 25 votes for their favorite dancing pair with their ticket purchase.
Prior to Saturday’s dance finals will be the crowning of the Citrus Queen. Davis said the winner will receive a $500 scholarship when she graduates from high school.
Live music takes the Florida Avenue main stage Friday and Saturday nights. Bands to be features are The Black Honkeys, the Kettle of Fish Band, the Ben Bryan Band, the Greg Billings Band and the Galbraith Group.
Saturday is the festival’s main day, also packed with a children’s area, community and sponsor displays, food and merchandise vendors, food trucks and a cornhole tournament.
Fitting with the festival’s theme, Davis said, a number of downtown merchants are expected to be serving citrus-related items. The Palm Harbor Museum will have a booth set up to display the citrus industry’s role in the city’s early growth.
“That was something we are working on developing to make it more citrus-related,” Davis said, noting that the event used to be known as Palm Harbor Days. “We decided to rename it the Citrus Festival to kind of highlight that while our orange groves are no longer here but this is what we were all about, besides cattle and fish.”
To find a full schedule of events and times, go to the Greater Palm Harbor Area Chamber of Commerce website, www.palmharborcc.org.