native american closeup

Chasco Fiesta Celebrates 100 Years of Giving with Native American Festival and Much More

By Diane Bedard Posted on March 2, 2022

Chasco Fiesta was first held in 1922 on the banks of the Cotee River in downtown New Port Richey. It featured a pageant dreamed up about the Calusa Indians and the Spanish explorers encountering each other locally. Things were very different then, but this enduring festival has grown while remaining true to its first days of parades, pageants, and fun.

Read on to learn about what the Chasco Fiesta offers today, as well as the history behind this amazing ten-day festival that raises funds to support nonprofits in the area and gets the City’s residents and visitors out to have a good time!

Native American Festival

Today, the Chasco Native American Festival provides authentic Native American dancing and educational programs. Entertainment is continuous throughout the 10 days of Chasco Fiesta. For 2022’s event, the program includes World Champion Hoop Dancing, Aztec Fire Dancers, Alligator wrestling and a reptile demonstration, a Native American Music Award winning singer/songwriter featuring world class American drummers and dancers from many tribal backgrounds.

There are Native American activities and events each of the ten days of this year’s Chasco Fiesta, and the schedule can be found here. The Native American Festival is sponsored by the Freedom Boat Club.

Native American arts and craft vendors will be onsite throughout the event also. To celebrate 100 years of this Native American themed festival, on Monday, March 28, performers will take center stage at the amphitheater with dramatic performances offered FREE to all attendees.

Live Music Each Day is Part of Chasco Fiesta’s Fun

Over the last twenty years, Chasco Fiesta has added more and more evening entertainment to their schedule, as well as expanding the number of days the Fiesta runs. For 2022, we have ten nights of various musical entertainment to entice you to visit downtown New Port Richey during the last week of March through April 3.

Here is the schedule:

  • JoyFM Family Night March 25
  • A Tribute to Rock March 26
  • Bay Area Showcase March 27
  • Native American March 28 – FREE Admission to this event
  • Happy Hour with the Black Honkeys March 29
  • Schoolhouse Jazz March 30
  • Bluesmasters March 31
  • 80’s Rock April 1
  • Today’s Country presents Chase Bryant and Drew Baldridge April 2
  • Ruth Eckerd Hall on the Road presents Night Ranger April 3
Night Ranger will wind up the ten nights of entertainment April 3. Photo credit: Kevin Baldes

Each day requires a $5.00 entry fee which includes full Fiesta event access. Children 12 and under are always free. Bring a blanket to sit on, except April 2 and 3. The concerts on April 2 and 3 offer reserved seating and VIP packages. Follow the links for details and pricing.

Don’t Miss the Carnival, the BBQ, or either of the Chasco Fiesta Parades

On Friday, March 25, the West Pasco Sertoma will once again bring their amazing beef barbecue back to Chasco Fiesta, starting at noon. At 5pm Friday evening, the Native American Festival in Sims Park, 5547 Main Street begins, and the Carnival opens at 5520 Grand Boulevard, in St. Clair Field at the corner of Grand Blvd. and Gulf Drive. The 2022 Chasco Fiesta Carnival is sponsored by F. I. Grey and Sons Realty and runs throughout the event at this location.

Sunset Landing Marina won the 2017 Chasco Fiesta Boat Parade with this entry. Image courtesy of Chasco Fiesta.

Saturday, March 26, the Chasco Fiesta Street Parade, sponsored by Meares Plumbing and hosted by the Holiday Rotary Club will begin at 1 pm.

A Chasco Car, Truck and Bike Show will be held Sunday, March 27 in the downtown. This will be hosted by the Gulfside Corvette Club.

The Chasco Boat Parade, sponsored by Covanta, and hosted by the Rotary Club of New Port Richey is Saturday, April 2 from 1-3pm. The boat parade can be enjoyed from Sims Park or anywhere along the Cotee River from Brown’s Point to the park.

The History of the Chasco Fiesta

In 1922, Mr. and Mrs. George Reginald Sims of New Port Richey were instrumental in the first Chasco Fiesta, held March 2 – 4 of that year along the banks of the Pithlachascotee River in what was then called Enchantment Park. The three-day event was held as a tribute to the Calusa tribe of Indians who were thought to have inhabited this area of Florida for thousands of years.

The Chasco Fiesta Pageant

A pageant, written and presented by Gerben M. Devries, was central to the theme of the 1922 Chasco Fiesta, creating a tale of a DeValla expedition attempting to overcome the Calusa Indians, who captured them and then sacrificed all but three of the Spanish group to their sun god, Toya, on an Indian mound near the mouth of the Pithlachascotee River.

Don Felipe DeValla’s daughter, Donna Isabella, his son, Don Philipe, and Franciscan priest, Padre Luis, remained with the Calusas, converting them to Christianity. Isabella was crowned by the Calusas as Queen Chasco, in charge of the tribe’s annual engagement party, reigning for years. Eventually, Padre Luis was left to write the story.[1]

How I imagine Donna Isabella, central character in the 1922 Chasco Fiesta Pageant, written by Gerben M. Devries. Image by Ben Frieden from Pixabay

The Chasco Boat Parade is Central to the Event

Entries for Queen Chasco came down the river in decorated boats, dressed in native-style costumes where they landed at what is now Sims Park.

A boat parade, a temporary recreation of a native American settlement, a carnival, and the pageant were all part of the festivities held as part of the first Chasco Fiesta. Mrs. Sims was crowned Queen Chasco.

This is how I picture the first recreation on the Sims land. Image courtesy of Pixabay.

The Fiesta was so popular that it was planned to be an annual event! With the Depression and WWII, plans changed, but in 1945, the Junior Women’s Club revived the event with a colorful boat parade, street dancing, a carnival, and, of course, the Queen Chasco and King Pithla coronations.

The full festival was revived in 1947 by the Chasco Club and handed over to the City of New Port Richey in 1948 as a civic holiday project.

By 1950, the Mayors of New Port Richey and Port Richey were involved, as were Veterans and Civic organizations of the area. A Ball was held, overseen by the newly elected King and Queen.

Reigning King Paul Friedlander and Queen Lisa Shippy-Gonzalez, elected in 2019. Photo by J. David, courtesy of Chasco Fiesta.

Chasco Fiesta Raises Funds for Local Nonprofits: A Legacy of Giving

Various fundraising tactics have been part of Chasco over the years, often utilizing a pay-per-vote for the right to choose the next Queen and King. Buildings have been funded, as have programs to improve the lives of New Port Richey’s residents.

In 1980, the Guinness Book of World Records, awarded the largest barbecue in the world to the West Pasco Sertoma Club for their 4,036 pounds of beef!

In the mid-1980s, a Chasco Fiesta Run was added, and the Festival was expanded to a full week. The pageant was removed until 1990, when the 68th Annual Chasco Fiesta brought it back. Local nonprofits would run their leaders for Queen and King, raising funds for each. Coronation Balls were held each year.

The World Championship Native Hoop Dancer competition will take place at this year’s Chasco Fiesta. Image courtesy of Chasco Fiesta.

In December of 1994, twelve of Florida’s Creek Indian Tribe Chiefs established the Creek Confederation of Florida to protect and continue their Rights and Heritage as Creek Indians, among other things. They began looking for a place to celebrate their heritage and unity, as well as gain recognition for the tribes. They chose Chasco Fiesta, so in 1995, the fantasy story of 1922 was supplemented and then replaced by accurate, true Native American peoples and traditions.

It’s Great to see Chasco Fiesta Coming Back Strong for the 100 Year Anniversary

In 2020, as Florida’s Governor shut down the State, Chasco Fiesta had to cancel its 10 days of planned activities. The steering committee had to make the hard choice to protect public safety over holding the annual Chasco Fiesta, leaving a hole in fundraising for many local nonprofits.

In 2021, Chasco Fiesta Executive Director, Patty Deremer told Barbara Behrendt of the Tampa Bay Times that the organizing committee was working on getting some smaller events together to help raise funds to bring Chasco back for 2022.

The Brooksville Native American Festival made the hard decision to skip 2022, so Chasco will be a great opportunity to experience Native American culture and shop Native vendors.

This year, Chasco Fiesta is BACK and ready to entertain the whole Nature Coast for ten days. You can find the entire entertainment schedule here.

Chasco Fiesta 2022 at a Glance

When: March 25, noon through April 3, 10:30 pm – Daily Schedule Here.
Where: Downtown New Port Richey, Sims Park, Pithlachascotee River, Grand Blvd.
Parking: Various locations around downtown New Port Richey
Do Not Bring: Chairs, outside food or drink, weapons of any kind, golf carts, roller skates, skateboards, bikes, scooters, coolers, laser pointers, drugs, alcohol, umbrella tents.
For More Information:

[1] Chasco Fiesta Funds To Build Civic Center by Steve Raymond, The Tampa Times, Mar. 25, 1950, p. 3 and Chasco Fiesta due to begin on Friday by Chip Wilson, The Tampa Tribune, March 18, 1985, p. 42



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