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Fiesta rhythms permeate Ybor

Thousands soak up the annual street festival's flavorful mix of food, music, dancing and more.

By DONG-PHUONG NGUYEN, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published February 10, 2002

TAMPA -- Rudy and Cristy Lorenz have lived all over the world. But when it came time to settle down, they chose the Tampa Bay area for its sunshine, affordable living and ethnic mix.

Oh, and its annual Fiesta Day.

The Lorenzes, of Brandon, sat on a bench Saturday along Seventh Avenue enjoying jumbo shrimp on skewers that had been brushed with garlic butter and barbecue sauce from a booth featuring Puerto Rican cuisine.

Around them, people were taking bites out of gyros, blooming onions and paella -- all sold as part of the annual street party honoring the area's Cuban, German, Italian, African-Cuban, Jewish and Spanish roots.

"It's events like these that make Tampa special," said Rudy Lorenz, a retired Navy veteran. "We love the atmosphere, the food and the people."

Thousands strolled under cloudy skies along several blocks of Ybor City, sampling Italian sausage sandwiches, pizza, strawberry shortcake and Cuban empanadas.

Stages set up along the way featured entertainers singing country, Italian and Spanish songs. Just east of 21st Street, revelers clapped their hands and swung their hips as instructors grooved to classic oldies.

"This is great," said Victoria Alex of Brandon, who came with her husband and two young sons. "I had no idea they would have all this food."

The 56th annual street festival also featured the famous giant pan of paella from the Columbia Restaurant, which was half-empty by midafternoon.

A few blocks over, Kid's Fiesta at Centennial Park had children dancing and singing. They got their faces painted, climbed a rock wall, played in an Astro Jump and rode a train.

People sold everything from lucky bamboo to create-your-own candle art.

First-time vendors Liz Pierce and her sister Erika Erickson ran the Two Sisters Sewing tent, which featured kiddie aprons and yo-yo balloons.

"I can't believe the amount of people there are," Pierce said, bouncing a yo-yo balloon to the live renditions of children's songs. "This is a lot of fun."

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