XC ECSTASY: For the 90th time, Ye Mystic Krewe of Gasparilla elected its king and queen, crowning them amid much royal ado at the Tampa Convention Center on March 1. King Stephen W. Swindal XC will lead the men's club into its 99th year of dressing up to play pirate. King Steve is a general partner of the New York Yankees and chairman of Maritime Towing of Tampa, among other interests.
Swindal, 48, graduated from Berkeley Prep and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Krewe-wise, he is a former captain, director, lieutenant and courtier. Coincidentally, he was a courtier to the late King Jim Ingram, whose granddaughter, Summer Miller, is a maid in Swindal's court.
The new queen is Mallory C. Howell, 22, daughter of Mary Lib and George B. Howell III and twin sister of the 2002 queen Courtney Howell. (Whew! Imagine the pillow fights if she had lost.) Mallory studies nutrition at Hillsborough Community College and plans to open a wellness clinic with her twin to help children with eating disorders. The twins join five other pairs of royal sisters: Mary Dunn Withrow (1965) and Billie Dunn Cimino (1969); Brenda Williams Ketchey (1971) and Patricia Williams Madden (1980); Caroline Murphey Snyder (1982) and Helen Murphey Brown (1983); Laura Ferman Farrior (1991) and Janice Ferman Straske (1992); and Evans Romano Snead (1993) and Tracy Romano Kral (1996).
The Gasparilla Cutthroat Chorus started off the evening singing the Star Spangled Banner, and the Four Tops concluded with Motown classics for the 1,600 guests. They rocked to soul favorites like Reach Out, I'll be There and Bernadette for an hour. The Joe Stagi Orchestra picked up the beat after that.
Front row tables at the Tampa Convention Center are reserved for the most senior members; among them, 50-year pirates Lewis H. Hill III and Joseph Savarese Jr. Suzanne Lowry Botts, Gasparilla queen 50 years ago in 1953, joined Lesley Dobbins, queen LVIII in 1972, at her table.
LEAVE IT TO TAMPA to begin a prestigious awards dinner with a fashion show. The recipients of the People of Vision Awards were among 14 "models" at Prevent Blindness Florida's annual dinner on Feb. 25. Three college presidents -- University of Tampa's Ron Vaughn, Hillsborough Community College's Gwen Stephenson and USF's Judy Genshaft -- wore evening fashions from Georgette's of Old Hyde Park and George Ltd. to be honored by 600 dinner guests at a $150-dinner at the Hyatt Regency Tampa. Other models included community leaders Dr. Jack Guggino, Diane and Mickey Jacob, Rhea Law, County Commissioner Pat Frank, Deanne Roberts and Sandy MacKinnon.
The trio have "an eye on education," said emcee Gayle Sierens. Together, they represent about 90,000 students, noted Mayor Dick Greco.
Rhea Law presented Genshaft her award, calling USF's sixth president "an Eveready battery." Dan Coton brought on Stephenson, who thanked three dear friends for their support: Catherine Pearson, Ocepher Harris and Dora Reeder. Rick Thomas introduced Vaughn, who "stopped the red ink, doubled enrollment and started $120-million of new construction."
FASHIONABLE FUNDRAISING: "Don't be nervous. Just pretend there's a sale on," said emcee/NFL analyst Deion Sanders to the models as they prepared to walk the runway for the Charisse Strawberry Celebrity Wives Fashion Show and Luncheon auction on Feb. 26.
Looking stunning in the Neiman Marcus clothing were Marie Martinez, Debbi Boggs, JaMiko Sapp, Nina Wells and Laura Pettitte, among others. Christopher D. Smithers Foundation underwrote the show, with all proceeds from the 250 guests going to support the work of the Tampa affiliate of the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence. Strawberry, president of NCADD-Tampa, hoped to double last year's proceeds of $22,000.
Ben Heldfond conducted the live auction. His best customers? Wife Nikki and mother-in-law Candy DeBartolo.
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SATURDAY: Tenth annual Stepping Out Gala to benefit St. Joseph's Hospital Foundation; 6:30 p.m.; Hyatt Regency Tampa; $175; 872-0979, ext. 233.
SATURDAY: Dancing in the Street benefits Kid City Children's Museum; silent auction, dinner, dancing, 7-10 p.m.; 7550 N Boulevard; $50; 935-8441.
SUNDAY: Sunday in the Arts; Las Damas de Arte exhibition and sale of artworks by 50 women artists; food and entertainment; University of Tampa Scarfone/Hartley Galleries; 5:30-8 p.m.; $25 in advance, $30 at the door; 253-6217.
TUESDAY: Girl Scouts of Suncoast Council Women of Distinction Luncheon; A La Carte Pavilion, guest speaker Alma Powell; $50; 281-4475, ext. 247.