The Chasco Fiesta

Scene from the Indian Pageant, early 1950s

This page was last updated on 17 Feb 2024 by Paul Herman

Pictures from past Chaso Fiestas are here.

Pictures of some past Chasco kings and queens are here.

The first Chasco Fiesta was held Thursday, March 2nd through Saturday, March 4th of 1922. According to an article in the March 2, 1922, issue of the New Port Richey Press, the idea of Chasco Fiesta originated as a means of raising funds for the construction of a new and permanent home for the Avery Library. The event included an automobile parade, a car race, motor boat races, a carnival midway with street performers, and a banquet. Unfortunately, there was rain on the Saturday of the event and a planned boat parade had to be canceled. The highlight of the Fiesta, however, was a pageant and play that included the coronation of Queen Chasco and Prince Pithla.

The pageant and play were based on a story told by postmaster Gerben DeVries, who claimed to have found a scroll in a clay cylinder along the banks of the Pithlachascotee River. On the manuscript there was a tale – reportedly bearing the signature of Padre Luis, a priest of the order of St. Francis – about a Spanish girl and boy who were taken by the local Calusa Indians in the late 1800s. They were raised by the tribe and eventually became Queen Chasco and King Pithla. Many people originally believed this story to be true. And an article about the discovery of the scroll was published on February 8th, 1922, in the Tampa Tribune.

In later years, postmaster DeVries revealed that he had invented the legend of Chasco after realizing how successful Tampa’s Gasparilla Pirate Festival had become – an event that was also based on a legend of a fictional pirate named Jose Gaspar that captured the City of Tampa. The “Indian Pageant” continued to be a highlight of the Chasco Fiesta until it was discontinued in 2003 due to objections from the American Indian Movement (AIM).

The first Chasco Fiesta in 1922 was reported to be a huge success, and there were plans to continue the tradition as an annual event. Nevertheless, with the exception of the related events mentioned below, the full Chasco Fiesta was not held again until 1947.

A 1926 newspaper stated that the Chasco would be re-enacted in late February of that year, but subsequent newspapers do not report on such an event.

In 1931 the Junior Women’s Club held a Chasco Carnival. On June 27, 1931, the Evening Independent reported, “The Chasco Junior Woman’s club will hold a miniature Chasco fiesta on the grounds of Bay Lea Inn Thursday, July 2, at 2:30 p.m. A queen will be chosen, the story told at the original fiesta, which took place about nine years ago, will be enacted by tableaux, boats will be provided for trips up the river and many other good things will be arranged. A very small entrance fee will be charged.”

In 1945 and 1946 a Spring Fiesta was held, sponsored by the Chasco Club (formerly the Junior Woman’s Club). At the 1945 event, Dorothy Cornell was selected Miss New Port Richey and at the 1946 event Audrey Potter (Stevenson) was selected Miss New Port Richey. The Tampa Sunday Tribune on March 25, 1945, reported: “The Chasco Fiesta, traditional springtime celebration of the Chasco Junior Women’s club, was revived last night with Dorothy Cornell, chamber of commerce entry, being crowned Miss New Port Richey of 1945.”

The first Chasco Fiesta of the modern era was held in 1947, by a consensus of newspaper coverage. Newspaper accounts at the time called it the first Chasco Fiesta since 1922. The Tampa Times on Feb. 15, 1947, wrote, “Held only once before, in 1922, the festival was based on the legend of Pithla and Chasco.”

In 1970 Miss Chasco Fiesta, rather than Queen Chasco, was chosen in a pageant that included swimsuit, evening gown, and a personal interview. This marked the end of choosing from Gulf High School seniors for Queen Chasco; the practice for choosing from Gulf seniors for King Pithla seems to have ended a few years earlier.

In 1993 the boat parade was canceled because of what became known as the “No-Name Storm.”

In 2020 and 2021 the Chasco Fiesta was not held because of the COVID-19 pandemic, although in 2021 some events typically part of the Chasco Fiesta were held, including the Native American Festival.

Chasco Fiesta Queens and Kings

Note: some errors in names for 1951-1953 were discovered and corrected in April 2019.

1922 Marjorie Sims Barnum W. Davis
1947 Mildred Jackson Andres Robert Jackson
1948 Lucy Jones DeCubellis Buddy Sawyer
1949 Lily Belle Calais Perraud Robert Weiskopf
1950 Audrey Potter Stevenson Richard D. Stevenson Jr.
1951 Frances Russ Tommy Hedge
1952 Joy Pierce Lane-Hetz James McIntyre
1953 Kathy Seltzer Roller Joe Mason
1954 Judy Minton Alexander Frank Sharp
1955 Diana Safranek Chittum Jimmy Lanning
1956 Barbara Hatcher Schuldt Jerry Schuldt
1957 Grace Wilson White Lorie Goodman
1958 Linda Grey Little Alton McCaskill
1959 Suzanne Whalley Milliron Steve Bush
1960 Carolyn Rajsky Bobby Sibo
1961 Polly Snell Ellinor Cary Crutchfield
1962 Joan Cummings Koehn Steve Uzzle
1963 Suzan Jones Dreher Sonny Safranek
1964 Marilyn Snell Lambert Ronnie Hatcher
1965 Elizabeth O’Hara Bruce Abare
1966 Sandy Stewart Pete Little
1967 Mary Little Allen Brooks
1968 Leslie Bauer Berger Michael Maloy
1969 Kathleen Salem Paul O’Brien
1970 Mary Ann Metherell Roger Michels
1971 Pam Voorhees Vaughn Steve Miklos
1972 Drema Hobbs Roy Milliron
1973 Debra D. Jones Earl A. Meyer
1974 Mardie Allyn Schaefer William C. Maytum
1975 Maureen Scanlon Gleason Henry Potter
1976 Cheryl Morrow Kanarvogel Daniel N. Martin
1977 Marcie Bruch Willard Clark
1978 Mary Sullivan Harris Pete Little
1979 Jeanie Jones Kurt Conover
1980 Daphne Grega Del Prete Roger Michels
1981 Julia Maseceli Mancuso Mark Swartsel
1982 Theresa Voss Pietsuh Ralph Johnson
1983 Charlotte Moore Poole John Gallagher
1984 Dallas W. Williams Mike Wick
1985 Sherry Wright Ernie Stricsek
1986 Tina Pannucci N. John Stewart Jr.
1987 Vicky May Thad Lowrey
1988 Abby Misemer Joe Grezaffi
1989 Ann Hildebrand Walt Casson
1990 Judy Bowman Marc Bowman
1991 Connie LoRe Steve Booth
1992 Dorothy Mitchell Niles Kinnunen
1993 Judy Case King Helie
1994 Judy Vincent Al Torrence
1995 Sandy Brown Dewey Mitchell
1996 Beverly Barnett Ron Thornton
1997 Cherry Kinnunen Dr. Kenneth Martin
1998 Cami Austin Roy Bain
1999 Judy Parker Bob Hugues
2000 Marilynn deChant Kurt Conover
2001 Mary Julian Craig McCart
2002 Ann Addino Gary Joiner
2003 Esther B. Jones Gary Taylor
2004 Susan Morgan King Richard C. Williams Jr.
2005 Karen King Frank Parker
2006 Joan Nelson Hook Bruce Mills
2007 Carol Kinnard Wayne Coulter
2008 Carol Pearson Frank Grey
2009 Evie Parks Phil Chesnut
2010 Bonnie Howard Dr. Rao Musunuru
2011 Judith Koutsos Chuck Grey
2012 Cindy Ewald Bob Memoli
2013 Victoria Barley Sandy Barley
2014 Candace Glewen Dave Parris
2015 Jamie Mick Tim Sherrell
2016 Tina Shelton Gerry Parish
2017 Angel Cook Kim Bogart
2018 Ellie Paladine Robert Green
2019 Lisa Shippy-Gonzalez Paul Friedlander

*In 1922, the title Prince Pithla was used. In 1947 and perhaps some subsequent years, the title Chief Pithla was used.

Chasco Fiesta

A Brilliant Success

This article appeared in the New Port Richey Press on March 9, 1922.

With the exception of Saturday the days of Chasco Fiesta were wonderfully fine and propitious. Saturday was cold and, in the morning, damp. The afternoon, however, cleared sufficiently to allow of the program being followed, although the low temperature undoubtedly proved a deterrent to many who had intended to be present.

Thursday, the opening day, attracted a big crowd. Main street, at 2 p.m. presented a most animated appearance. The sidewalks were crowded with people, and every parking space was occupied by an automobile. At this hour the carnival parade took place, and this was formed in the order of the program given last week, headed by the town band.

At 6 o’clock, around the hour of sunset, the pageant proper was staged, and this was quite as interesting as anticipated. Queen Chasco, in the gorgeous dress of the ruler of her tribe, and attended by a numerous retinue, approached the landing at the Indian Village, with a fleet of stately canoes, and to the wild enthusiastic whoops of the assembled Calusas.

In the centre of the village, shaded by high and stately palms, the throne had been erected on a dais and under a canopy of rich tropical foliage. Here Chasco took her seat, to bear the renunciation of all his rights and privileges as ruler of the tribe of Chief Mucoshee in her royal favor, and here she was crowned queen. The ceremony was both impressive and picturesque. The old chief’s renunciation and words of instruction and advice to his fair follower were listened to with rapt attention. The departure of the abdicated chieftain was dignified and seemed to give rise to a feeling of sympathy and regret among the spectators. Then Queen Chasco instructed her couriers to go to every quarter to proclaim the tidings of the change of dynasty, and the appointment of Prince Pithla ruler of the city and guardian of the queen’s seal. Thus ended a ceremony which next year will be repeated with even greater pomp and rite. The following is the cast of characters in the pageant: —

Queen Chasco Mrs. Geo R. Sims
Prince Pithla Mr. Barnum Davis
Mucoshee Mr. C. A. Tansill
La-ko-no-kee Mr. G. M. DeVries
Wreath Bearer Miss D. Freeman
Maid of Honor Miss M. Arens
Maid of Honor Mrs. Ravenhall, 3 Attendants, couriers, etc.

To take care of the evening entertainments, two giant programs had been prepared by Mr. and Mrs. Howard Ashton, with casts of performers made up of local talent entirely. We cannot individualise in handing the laurels around, but we can express our pleasure and surprise at the result of Mr. and Mrs. Ashton’s efforts to give the public their money’s worth. This was done, and more. Everybody admitted it, unstintingly. The Moonlight Cabaret, which formed the piece de resistance of the Thursday night’s bill, was pronounced GREAT by an audience which packed The Palms to the doors. In this Mrs. Schoolcraft was interlocutor; end men L. Colby, Barnum Davis, Roy Fosket, Clint Lockard, T. Payson and Roy Mysner. The specialties were Alabalmy Jamboree, C. Lockard and chorus; I want my mama, F. Sampson and chorus; A gipsy maid, Mrs. Howard Ashton; Peggy O’Neil, Mrs. Mary Grey and Miss Lucille Pass; The old fashioned girl, Mrs. Rothera; Chas. Hall soloist; Dick Ravenhall, Spanish dancer; Black face monolog, Mrs. C. A. Tansill; Someone like you, Miss Pass and Floyd Sampson, Chat song, Mrs. Ashton and Harmony Girls, Mrs. Grey, Mrs. Barnett, Mrs. Clark, Miss L. Pass; the cabaret guests were Mrs. Case. Mr. J. W. Clark, Mrs. W. Casey, Mr. W. Barnett, Mrs. R. Ravenhall, Mr. W. Casey, Mrs. freeman, Mr. G. Shephard, Miss Elaine Metzger, Miss Bonita Pierson, Miss Doris Wright, Miss Marion Metzger.

The second (Friday) night’s program was given under the title of The Fun Revue. It was fittingly described. The same artistes took part, and there wasn’t a dull moment from the word Go. Lawrence Colby was the burnt cork “merchant,” and he was a scream. He says he never acted the part before. If he’s truthful only he and his conscience knows — but we think there’s a n____r concealed in his genealogical tree somewhere. The financial result of the two shows was $381.00.

Friday’s festivities opened up with a decorated car parade, which brought out a large number of automobiles, profusely and elaborately dressed. Among the cars entered were those of Mr. George R. Sims, Mrs. W. K. Jahn and Mrs. Black, Mr. and Mrs. W. Allen, Roy Stevens, H. D. Case, Mr. and Mrs. J. W. Clark, Mr. and Mrs. Fred Sass, Dr. and Mrs. Avery, Chas L. Fox & Son, Mr. and Mrs. R. Ravenhall, Mr. and Mrs. H. S. Beach, Mr. and Mrs. Ralph Beach, Mr. Northrop, Mr. and Mrs. Chas Hoffman, Mr. and Mrs. O. W. Herms, John G. Holzscheiter, Mr. and Mrs. Kaley, Colonel and Mrs. von der Bosch, Mr. and Mrs. Colby, Mrs. Hayburger, Geo. Wanner, New Port Richey Garage, Mrs. Salisbury, Barnum Davis, Mr. and Mrs. Williamson, Rollie Draft, Mr. and Mrs. Emil Nyman, Mr. and Mrs. Richard Morgan, Library Associates, Mr. & Mrs. York, Mr. & Mrs. DeVries. Elfers: A. F. Smith, J. M. Mitchell, R. Nason, Mitchell Packing House, Gulf Groves, C. M. Brown, S & M Garage, D. W. Golden.

Many cars were pictures, and must have been decorated at enormous cost of patience and labor. The Mitchell Packing House deserved the first prize, which it won, so also the Ravenhall car, which looked charming. The Sims car, a study in violet, took third prize.

At 3 p.m., an exciting race between Ford cars, resulted in 1st prize, Morris, Elfers; 2nd O’Hara, New Port Richey.

At 4 o’clock p.m. a picturesque event was staged by Miss Dorothy Freeman and Miss V. Copeland. Miss Freeman as a white girl captured by Indians, was rescued by her friend, an Indian maid (Miss V. Copeland). Together they made a spectacular getaway on horseback, afterwards plunging into the waters of the Pithlachascotee, and winning freedom.

The banquet to Queen Chasco was prepared by members of the Ladies Aid, and served in Community Church. It was a popular affair from point of number, and brought together the best of our people, including a large party from Elfers. Queen Chasco, Prince Pithla and their retinue occupied a table on the platform, and the meal was served by volunteer ladies. The invocation was made by Rev. Father Felix, who was introduced by Dr. Elroy M. Avery, the toastmaster in the following words: Small in stature, big in soul; and rich in the love of those who know him, Father Felix will now deliver the Divine blessing. After the dinner a brief program of songs, music and speeches was gone through.

Afterwards, the Coronation Ball took place in the Clark Building, which fittingly terminated the First Annual Chasco Fiesta of New Port Richey.

The only casualty that happened to mar the proceedings was an accident to Mr. Art Dacomo. Mr. Dacomo was performing on the high wire the first day of the festival, when one of the stretchers gave way and he fell to the ground, fracturing two ribs and sustaining other injuries. Mr. Dacomo was one of the pageant’s most enthusiastic workers, and he has everyone’s sympathy in his mishap. We are pleased to report that Mr. Dacomo is doing well.

Next week we shall have something to say about the workers and their noble efforts to make this event a success.

Those who have been omitted with our personal column this week must mark don the omission to Chasco Fiesta. We will attend to them next week.

Mr. LaMotte’s wonderful collection of antiques is also held over.

History of Pasco County front page