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'The greatest party on earth,' on the water and on land

From Harbour Island to Howard Avenue, there were Gasparilla parties galore. Here's what our social columnist and our man about town observed Saturday:

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By ERNEST HOOPER and AMY SCHERZER

© St. Petersburg Times
published February 3, 2002


TAMPA -- Attorney John Fitzgibbons' 11th fest sardined way more than the 1,500 guests he had expected into his Harbour Island condo. The polite partygoers helped themselves to booze, Cuban sandwiches and brownies, and before long the party segued down the back steps and all along the waterfront.

"This is the greatest party on earth," said estate planner Robert "Bo" Haller. He missed it last year and vowed never to miss another.

Yolanda Cazares, a "Gasparilla virgin" attending her first parade and her first Fitzgibbons fete, caught her first beads. A chemical engineer with Nalco, she moved from Chicago three months ago for a "good job, good friends and good weather."

* * *

One thing you have to realize about Gasparilla is that while it may not rival Mardi Gras, it is becoming a tourist draw. At the apartment home of Michelle Carlyon on Dekle Avenue, there were visitors from Jacksonville, Orlando and Gainesville.

"It's great to see all your friends from out of town come to Tampa just for this festival," said Cathy Castellano. "Alcohol is legal in the streets of Tampa Bay today."

Well, not exactly, with the bottle ordinance being enforced, and even cyclists facing the possibility of being arrested for DUI. But we know what Castellano means. Gasparilla Day is a license for many to misbehave as they never have, and as long as they keep their shirts on, there's nothing wrong with that.

* * *

Hundreds of party boats rimmed Harbour Island, front row seats for the pirate flotilla. One doc, anesthesiologist Anthony Kirkpatrick, entertained on a 46-foot chartered Carver docked in front of his condo.

The yachtful of pain specialist physicians, plus a few patients, are in town for an international symposium Kirkpatrick is giving this weekend on reflex sympathetic dystrophy. On this afternoon, the doctors were feeling little pain.

* * *

Ryan Seimers wasn't visiting Tampa, having moved from Dallas in 1994. But the crowd Seimers and cross-street neighbor Devin Baillairge had drawn on Watrous Street made them appear to be natives. Seimers didn't boast about his popularity or the beautiful people at his party, which included Sofie Gonzalez, Kelli Chong, Kim Sukach and Scott Minnes.

No, Seimers was glowing about his dad's cooking skills and his mom's mimosas. Terry Seimers was serving up blueberry, strawberry and banana pancakes, while Ryan's mom, Colleen, and friend Patty Frye were perfecting the right blend of orange juice and champagne.

* * *

Just a few blocks north of the Seimers-Baillairge bash, Pam Bondi had a yard full of happy folks, including Dave McKay of WQYK-FM 99.5, several of Tampa's and New York's finest and Krewe of Sant'Yago members. Instead of joining them in the yard, however, Bondi was inside doing all she could to coax Donovan, her 165-pound St. Bernard, into the bedroom.

She pleaded, cajoled and ordered, but he didn't budge until Patsy Bondi, Pam's mom, lured Donovan and his bologna-pink tongue away with a Cuban sandwich, his favorite.

* * *

Due west of Harbour Island, past the climbing wall on the corner of Orleans Avenue, sat the palatial Bayshore home of Erika and Don Wallace. Those who had a star-shaped sticker gained admittance and wandered through the $8-million manse to find dozens of children bouncing on two inflatable Moon Walks, one in the front yard and one in the back yard.

The swimming pool was covered over for chairs and tables with feathered centerpieces and beads. Entertainers, dressed like pirates, twisted balloons and painted faces until it was time to cross the impeccably green lawn to reserved seats for the parade.

Attorney Barry Cohen, wife Casasa and baby Barry were at the Wallaces', along with Ed Turanchik and his family, local businesswoman Maureen Rorech-Dunkel and her family, and attorney Richard Salem.

* * *

In the parade staging area, krewes and groups all gathered with excitement. Susan Glickman, a member of the Bobbie C. Davis Crewe, shunned the notion of elitism attached to some of the groups and said the participants were eager to throw beads.

"What we really want to do is make eye contact with people," Glickman said. "That's what makes it special for us."

* * *

Other observations: turkey leg bones strewn in the street, kids on leashes while dogs wandered freely, enough thongs and bikini tops for an MTV video, teenage boys making home video peep shows, and Eugene Beer, who entertained with a piano attached to the handlebars of his bicycle.

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