Rollicking 'n' rolling
By JAY CRIDLIN
There weren't a lot of toddlers in Ybor City Saturday night for the Sant'Yago Knight Parade, but Denise James and Lona Kicinski found a good use for a stroller.
"This is our baby," said James, patting the stroller's passenger, a large blue cooler.
And what's in that baby?
"A lot of liquor," Kicinski said.
The Knight Parade wasn't strictly adults-only, but as always, its rowdy and ribald crowd certainly put a PG-13 cap on Gasparilla 2003.
"No kids," James said. "More fun."
Dozens of floats and hundreds of bead-flinging buccaneers wound their way from Ybor City to downtown.
It was the city's fifth parade in 22 days, with the Gasparilla children's parade, Gasparilla, the Buccaneers' Super Bowl victory parade and last weekend's Fiesta Day march through Ybor City all drawing huge crowds.
Despite the raucous 18-and-up vibe, plenty of parents ended up bringing their children to the Ybor City portion of the parade, in part because of this year's earlier 6 p.m. start time.
"We figured, since they figure it'll be over by 8:30, that it'd be okay to bring them out," said Chelli Antle, as her sons, ages 7 and 2, hovered by her side. "As long as no one gets out of hand or anything, I think it'll be fine."
More children watched the parade from downtown, site of the Red Baron Pizza Family Fiesta earlier in the afternoon.
Jenelle Sullivan, whose three children each had a thick collar of beads around their necks, said she has duffel bags full of beads at home.
"We've got quite a collection," she said. "We've decided one year we're going to walk behind the parade and give them to the kids who don't have any."
Not that there were many folks without beads. Even at the corner of Seventh Avenue and and 16th Street, where actual $1,500 gold chains hung in the window of La Ultramar Jewelers, fans waved, screamed and leaped until they got their plastic ones. Some on balconies spilled beer on those below as they stretched for the strands.
"All for 2-cent beads," said marcher and tosser John Favata.
Those who weren't lucky enough to catch beads could make their own at the Family Fiesta, where a booth offered youngsters the chance to string their own strands.
"You just pick out some colors, and then you put them on," said 11-year-old Gabrielle Sigler of Spring Hill. "I'm putting some beads on the string to make my dad a necklace."
"I'm a pretty lucky dad, don't you think?" said her father, David.
Elsewhere at the Family Fiesta, Jack Lamb, a member of the Krewe of the Knights of Sant'Yago, "knighted" kneeling children with beads and a certificate of knighthood.
Jockeying for the best parade viewing spot was easy for those who have braved at least one of Tampa's recent parades.
Gwen Lee of Lutz nabbed a front-row seat downtown hours before the parade.
"I have two kids, and I want them to be up front," she said.
Not that she, too, won't be looking for beads.
"I'm thinking the beads are going to go farther back, so I sent my husband in the back," she said.
When the parade started, such luminaries as Mayor Dick Greco, U.S. Rep. Jim Davis and new Devil Rays manager Lou Piniella were reduced to little more than bead dispensers to the raucous Ybor City crowd.
Davis ran out of beads by the end of the route, but Piniella saved plenty for those at the end.
Teenagers Alexandra Bilby and Whitney Smyth sat at the intersection of Kennedy Boulevard and Nebraska Avenue, the last two spectators along the parade route.
"Most people are unloading their beads right now, and we'll get more," Smyth said as a marcher walked up with a handful of strands.
But for many, the evening didn't end with the parade. With several hundred beads in tow, James and Kicinski were ready to party through the night.
"We didn't bring them all," James said. "We left the rest in the van."
"We're going to get a couple hundred more tonight," Kicinski said.
"Yup," James said. "We'll leave here with a neckache."
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