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Tangy flavors

Published January 29, 2007

[Times photo: Melissa Lyttle]
In a sea of outstretched arms, University of Florida sophomore Natalia Perez, 21, center, in blue, vies for a string of beads during the Gasparilla pirate festival in Tampa. About half a million people turned out for the event known for invaders bearing baubles.

Saturday, Tampa Bay area residents had their pick of two events: the 10th annual Kumquat Festival in Dade City or the Gasparilla Pirate Festival in Tampa.

One is Velcro sneakers. The other, "Where are my shoes?"

One is lemonade. The other is beer from a keg pushed in a baby stroller.

One is bras on. The other, bras intermittently on.

About 35,000 people come to the Kumquat Festival.

Somewhere around half a million go to Gasparilla.

Here are some contrasting glimpses from both events.

Gasparilla: 1:34 p.m.: A guy with red, unfocused eyes, with half a bra dangling from his right index finger, held up:

"I've got ya a souvenir, man!"

"Some girl, man!"

"I took it from her!"

Kumquat: 1:38: A man and two women in leather vests and chaps with fringe head back to their motorcycles.

Why aren't you at Gasparilla?

"None of us drink," says Carol Petty, 65, as if it were obvious.

"Now we're going for ice cream."

Gasparilla: 1:40: "I need beer! Give me beer!"

Kumquat: 2:03: Hickabilly Hanks Smokehouse runs out of food - 60 turkey legs, 18 racks of ribs and 30 pounds of pulled pork. Nearly out of their 150 pounds of kettle corn. Later, a man eating this kettle corn says, in between stuffing fistfuls into his mouth: "I didn't know this has sugar in it. I can't have sugar."

Gasparilla: 2:32: Guy with short red hair, watching the parade, yells at the passing deputies throwing beads out of the windows of their cars:

"Hey! Hey! You put me in jail twice! Throw me some beads!"

Kumquat: 2:36: In the bank's parking lot, a band starts a show. The audience is mostly senior citizens. "We are Rubix Cubed," says the lead guy, in a white suit, pink T-shirt and a checkered guitar strap. "I hope you like '80s music because we're going to play a load of it."

A few minutes later ...

The crowd is mostly gone. Marilyn Yale, who is in her 70s and came to look at the quilts, pauses, listens, purses her lips and walks away.

"It's not my crowd," she says. "But, we've got to have something for the younger ones."

Gasparilla: 3:35: Said, literally, verbatim, by a bead-crazy girl who looked 13 or 14:

"I ain't showin' my boobies for beads!"

Kumquat: 3:45: A woman tries a kumquat from the free samples. This is the first one she's ever had. Her face recoils at the tartness.

"That took my breath away," gasps Jeanne Grossman.

Grossman and her sister, Gladys Kyles, both in their 60s, are from New York and winter in Homosassa. Of kumquats, they share opinions

"We laugh about them," Kyles says.


The ladies look at each other.

"The name," Grossman says.

"Sounds a little dirty," Kyles finishes.

T-shirts seen at Gasparilla:



Seen at Kumquat: For $25: A ceramic monkey riding a motorcycle under a palm tree, which was strewn with tiny Christmas lights.

For $20: The ceramic monkey sculpture without lights.

Erin Sullivan can be reached at or (813) 909-4609. Michael Kruse can be reached at or (352) 848-1434.

[Last modified January 28, 2007, 23:54:02]

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