A Guavaween tale of two parades

For the second year, Guavaween's Mama Guava Stumble Parade will start at 8 p.m.

By Mike Brassfield Times Staff Writer
Published October 23, 2007

TAMPA - For roughly two decades, the raucous Guavaween parade began at dusk. Revelers rolled through Ybor City in alcohol-fueled debauchery.

But timing was an issue for restaurants and families, and so last year, promoters tried something new: a parade after dark.

The idea stuck. This Saturday, the annual Mama Guava Stumble Parade will again start at 8 p.m.

There are two reasons:

- To free up the dinner hour and get more of the 100,000 or so revelers to actually patronize Ybor's restaurants and businesses before they take in the surreal scene on Seventh Avenue. Restaurants have mixed views on whether this will help.

- To build a bigger time cushion between the R-rated street party that cranks up in the evening and the G-rated, kid-friendly crowd that comes earlier for Guavaween's Family FunFest.

"We have a parade for kids, but we don't encourage families to stay for the night parade," said Teri Cox Hickey, president of CC Event Productions, which puts on the party. "This gives the families more time to filter out and the evening crowd more time to filter in."

The FunFest, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, offers trick-or-treating, rides, costume contests for kids and pets, and "spooky story time." By late afternoon, parents will be pushing strollers and sleepy children toward the parking lots.

By dusk, the bacchanal will be in full swing. Tens of thousands of adults will be roaming Seventh Avenue in imaginative and provocative costumes, buying tall cans of beer from bikini-clad women.

Some will pause for a sit-down dinner. Many restaurants are hoping to turn over their tables a couple of times before the parade, which is the highlight of the night.

Others have doubts.

"The fine diners aren't out on Guavaween. It's not generally known as a restaurant eating day," said Bill Haines, manager of Bernini, which serves fine Italian cuisine at 1702 E Seventh Ave. "There are so many street vendors out there, our business is slower than normal. They'll fill their bellies out on the street."

But other eateries do a brisk business on this night, and they think a later parade will help.

"Deviled crab and Cuban sandwiches --we can't make 'em fast enough," said David Green, general manager of Carmine's, a standby for Spanish and Cuban food at 1802 E Seventh Avenue. "It's already a busy night for us, and moving the parade back to 8 definitely makes a difference."

For Big City Tavern in Centro Ybor, the main advantage is that dinner time patrons will be able to park in the garage across the street without getting blocked by the parade. "Absolutely, it's going to help us out," said general manager Steve Roth.

This all coincides with a push to market Ybor as a good place to eat dinner, not just a beer-soaked party district.

With the 8 p.m. start last years, restaurants saw a difference, said Tom Keating, president of the Ybor City Chamber of Commerce. "At Acropolis, they did at least two turns of dinner time between when families went home and the nighttime crowd."

Guavaween caters to several different audiences, said Hickey, the event producer who has run it for years. During the daytime, it's parents and kids. Late at night, it's the hard-partying crowd.

"In the evening, it's the best people-watching you'll ever see," Hickey said. "One 70-year-old lady from Ocala, she comes every year. She tells me she wouldn't miss it. But she leaves at 10."

Mike Brassfield can be reached at brassfield@sptimes.com or (813) 226-3435.



Family FunFest: 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Admission is $5.

Street Party: 3 p.m.-3 a.m. Admission is $15. Live music on three stages.

Mama Guava Stumble Parade: 8 p.m., moves west on E Seventh Avenue starting at 20th Street.

Costume Contest: 10 p.m., local entertainment stage.

Information: (813) 242-4828 or www.cc-events.org.