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Gasparilla is particular about whom it lets in.
By ALEXANDRA ZAYAS, Times Staff Writer
Published January 26, 2008
[Chris Zuppa | Times]
TAMPA -- Today, the Gasparilla parade will swirl by in a haze of beads and floats and adults playing dress up. But slow it down for just a second, and you can sneak a glance into pirate politics.
You can tell the richest, most established parade participants, or krewes, by how much parade real estate they take up. Some long-established krewes have three or four floats. Ye Mystic Krewe of Gasparilla, which puts on the 104-year-old parade, has about 11 floats, including a pelican, a skeleton and a jail float with a cannon.
Now zoom back 114 spots to the end of the lineup. There are the most recent lucky five krewes allowed into the big parade this year, content to throw beads to whoever sticks around.
But there's an even lower strata in the Gasparilla pecking order. They're the krewes you won't see today, who couldn't -- or wouldn't -- make the cut.
* * *
While Ye Mystic Krewe's octopus and cave floats are showcased down Bayshore Boulevard, one pirate ship will sit outside Terry Huber's house in Ruskin.
He has had no problem getting into the less-exclusive Children's Gasparilla Parade or next month's Sant'Yago Knight Parade, but the leader of Ye Notorious Krewe of the Peg Leg Pirate has tried to get into the Gasparilla Parade of Pirates three years in a row and has been turned down each time.
So how do you get in? First, you have to get an application. And, as Huber puts it, "They don't drive around and look for you."
Then, "You can apply, but it's obviously not a guarantee that you'll be in," said Jim Tarbet, executive director of Ye Mystic Krewe, who is part of a committee that decides who will participate.
You need to meet certain criteria: You must have a float. It can't be taller than 12-1/2 feet, so it can clear the Davis Islands Bridge. It has to be towed -- and, because of sponsorship agreements, by a General Motors vehicle. Your float has to be insured for $1-million. And you have to pay a $500 participation fee.
Ye Mystic Krewe can fill only 120 slots, which include krewes, sponsors and other local groups like police and military. Tarbet says he can't squeeze any more floats into the staging area that extends south to Gandy Boulevard, and he doesn't want the parade to get too long.
"We have to keep that parade something that is fun and doesn't become a marathon," he said.
The committee usually invites krewes that have already participated to return. So for a new krewe to snag a spot, someone has to drop out.
Tarbet says his committee keeps a record of krewes that have been rejected in the past, and gives priority to the ones that have been trying the longest to get into the parade.
If that's the case, Huber's krewe should be coming up soon. Until then, the Peg Leg Pirates have to figure out what to do today. They may just keep their float company in Ruskin.
"We talked about having a Gasparilla party not at the parade," he said.
* * *
The Pyrates of the Gulf Coast cite physics as their reason for not participating -- driving their float on a highway from Bradenton to Tampa is treacherous business.
"If you get over 45 miles an hour, it starts to sway real bad," said krewe president Mitch Stewart. Money was also a factor for the small, 20-person krewe.
The Krewe of Southern Sisterhood applied in the past, but the 5-year-old krewe was rejected because it was too new, said vice president Shannon Norden. The Sisterhood didn't try this year, and was just getting ready to buy a block of bleacher seats when the Ladies of the Crown invited them to share their float.
"I guess this year it'll kind of test the waters to see if it's something we want to do," Norden said, adding that her members will get to participate at a fraction of the cost of having their own float in the parade.
Gary Smith of the Krewe of Cavaliers said they just prefer to party. A few of his fellow cavaliers always have parties in Hyde Park, and krewe members hop from house to house. That's their tradition.
The Hernando County Freebooters have gotten mixed up with the application process in years past. The first year they applied, they sent their application to the wrong address, said captain Randy Woodruff.
Then this year, they didn't realize they needed to call the Gasparilla krewe to request an application. By the time they figured it out last fall, Ye Mystic Krewe said the call came two weeks late.
Like their fellow new krewes, they were given the chance to gear up and show off their float at the Children's Parade last week. But they got rained out, and had to go home. At least they'll have the Sant'Yago Knight Parade.
Today, the captain will be counting cash with his accounting firm at the Pasco County Dead Wood Stampede, the bike show, all-you-can-eat barbecue and bikini contest.
But some of his krewe members will be standing next to you, Ye Mystic Spectators, on the less glamorous side of the fence.
Next year, Woodruff hopes the situation is different. He says he's going to start calling for his application in June, and he'll even mail it himself.
His krewe has waited since 2003, he said. "I want in!"
Alexandra Zayas can be reached at email@example.com or (813) 226-3354.
- 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.: Gasparilla Invasion Brunch, Tampa Convention Center, $55, $45 for children older than 2.
- 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.: Flotilla and invasion. From the south end of Hillsborough Bay, the flotilla sails north to Seddon Channel and docks at the Tampa Convention Center. Free.
- 2 to 5:30 p.m.: Gasparilla Parade of the Pirates. The parade begins on Bayshore Boulevard at Bay to Bay, traveling north on Bayshore into downtown Tampa see map for route. Free.
- 10 a.m. to 11 p.m.: Pirate Fest Street Festival with live entertainment, food and midway. Free admission.
Caution: Cars parked illegally will be towed at owner's expense.
Private lots throughout downtown Tampa will be open during Gasparilla, with varying rates.
Here is a list of the public parking garages and lots:
- Tampa Convention Center Garage, at Tampa and Brorein streets, opens at 5 a.m. $10.
- Lot 2, under the Crosstown between Florida Avenue and Morgan Street, opens at 7 a.m. $10.
- Lot 3, under the Crosstown east of Morgan Street, opens when Lot 2 is full. $5.
- South Regional Garage, on Channelside Drive between Florida Avenue and Morgan Street, opens at 6 a.m. $10.
- Fort Brooke Garage, at the northwest corner of Florida Avenue and Whiting Street (accessible from Whiting), opens at 6 a.m. $10.
- Whiting Street Garage, on Whiting Street between Florida Avenue and Morgan Street, opens at 9 a.m. $10.
- Poe Garage, on Ashley Drive south of Cass Street, opens at 7 a.m. $4.
- Curtis Hixon Garage, on Ashley Drive at Twiggs Street, opens at 7 a.m. $4.
- Meters south of Kennedy Boulevard and on Kennedy will be enforced from 8 a.m. to midnight.
Remote parking and shuttle
- The Palm Avenue Garage (2010 N 13th St.) and the Centro Ybor Garage (1500 E Fifth Ave.) charge $1 per hour for the first three hours, $4 per hour after that. You can then take a streetcar from Centro Ybor to the Southern Transportation Plaza near the heart of the party from 9 a.m. to 2 a.m. A one-day unlimited streetcar pass is $4 (exact change required).
- Free parking is available at Lots 1 and 3 of Raymond James Stadium (N Dale Mabry Highway and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard). A shuttle will run from the stadium to Hyde Park Place and De Leon Street, just off the parade route, from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. The shuttle is $10 per person, round trip.
For Gasparilla information, (813) 274-8750.
[Last modified January 25, 2008, 23:03:03]