Guavaween characters gambol in Ybor City
By JOHN BALZ and RON MATUS
TAMPA -- The city's most outrageous and fanciful celebration stumbled through Ybor City on Saturday, beginning gently with events for children, and building through the night into the traditional woozy street frolic of costumes, celebration and ribaldry.
The night, mild and clear, was made for a party. Authorities said about 10 p.m. that the crowd, expected to top 120,000, was noticeably well-behaved.
But that doesn't mean dull.
After dark, throngs of revelers paid $10 each to get into the fenced-in party zone along Seventh Avenue.
The festivities began with a pair of black hearses pulling giant goblin figures to lead off the Mama Guava Stumble parade.
In another parade unit, men in leather vests and women in black bikinis stood atop a double-decker bus decorated like a castle.
But the real show was in the street, where the famous -- Frankenstein, Dracula, Fred Flintstone, Marge Simpson, Spider-Man and the Screamer from Edvard Munch's painting (or the horror film Scream) -- mixed with partiers dressed as nurses, soldiers, cowboys, kittens, and toga-clad ancients.
"We're old folks but we get to act young one day a year," said Pat Syron, 40, from Tampa, who was dressed in a silver body suit as the Tin Man. Standing alongside him were the Scarecrow, the Cowardly Lion and Dorothy, portrayed by his wife and friends.
On stage, a concert featuring Nick Carter (formerly of the Backstreet Boys) and rapper Angie Martinez, moved the crowd.
The usual corps of skin flashers came this year, abetted by the Girls Gone Wild production team, which makes videotapes of women exposing themselves.
"We give them a free towel," said cameraman Nick Barton, 25, describing how easy it is to persuade some women to take their tops off.
Police reported a small number of minor arrests during the evening, but described the crowd as "calm."
Earlier Saturday, Guavaween was for the kids.
Thousands strolled the streets for the family-friendly version, which included carnival rides, cotton candy and lots of kids in costumes.
Jim Anders, 12, of St. Petersburg wanted to come as the Grim Reaper. But he had to settle for what he called "The Grave Reaper."
Jim left his scythe at home to comply with security requests.
He was still pretty scary, with a black robe and hood and a mask that left a shadowy void where his face should have been.
"He just hangs out and the little kids go, "Ohhhhh,' " said Jim's mother, Marcia Anders.
"They back up," said Jim, no doubt grinning behind the mask.
The Four Horsemen Fantasy Combat team brought real swords and daggers, though they were "stage combat dull," said team co-director Paul Stonebridge.
The long-haired Horsemen, wearing robes and armor, treated the crowd to faux displays of medieval combat in Centennial Park.
There was lots of clanging, and lots of booing at the bad guys.
"Please feel free to make a donation," the combatants said after each performance. "We have wicked doctor bills."
Tamika Banks led a crew of two skeletons, a zombie, a she-devil, a grim reaper and a California Angels baseball player.
Beneath the costumes were her three sons, daughter, niece and nephew.
Banks planned to stay late so her kids could watch as "the costumes get weirder."
For others, the highlight of the afternoon was the children's costume parade. Hundreds of kids circled Centennial Park as judges looked on.
The winner: A baby angel, complete with feathery wings and fuzzy halo, astride a fluffy cloud of a cart.
"This is what it's all about: Kids," said emcee Mama Guava, as Time Warp from the Rocky Horror Picture Show began playing in the background. "Until later on tonight."
© 2006 • All Rights Reserved • Tampa Bay Times
490 First Avenue South St. Petersburg, FL 33701 727-893-8111
From the Times
local news desks