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On Super Bowl Sunday, the party's anywhere

By SUE CARLTON

© St. Petersburg Times, published January 29, 2001


TAMPA -- So they didn't have tickets to the big game. So the reason for all the months of hype and hoopla was finally going on inside Raymond James Stadium.

That still was no reason to stop the party.

"We don't want to go home tomorrow," said Carlotta Williams, sipping a Heineken at the crowded Ravens party at the Blues Ship bar Sunday, where the game blared from a half-dozen TVs around her. The Baltimore florist, who won bus tickets to Tampa on the radio, said she hadn't slept since she arrived Friday.

"This isn't the Super Bowl?" her boyfriend Dwight Purley joked blearily.

Across Tampa Bay, thousands of fans who didn't make it to the big game were there in spirit as parties rocked into the night. But unlike Saturday night's pregame frenzy and celebrity fest that snarled traffic and left streets strewn with garbage, this round of festivities had partygoers settling in front of TVs with their cocktails.

In the formerly raucous Ybor City, scantily clad women who had been busy hawking iced-down longnecks from storefronts Friday and Saturday now lounged at their posts. A store called Super Bowl Stuff had been nearly emptied by fans and displayed a sign -- SALE: 50 PERCENT OFF. The masses who had danced in the streets were gone, with only small groups strolling Seventh Avenue. A carousel at a makeshift carnival on a side street circled slowly. No riders.

At the nearby Florida Aquarium, well-dressed partygoers could step out on the breezy night air of the patio, stroll past the underwater exhibits, or watch the big-screen TV from tables covered in white linens.

More than 700 people showed for the Players Paradise III viewing party up by 8 p.m., sending organizers scrambling to complaints of not enough food. Among the players who made the party during the game were Washington Redskin LaVar Arrington, St. Louis Ram Orlando Pace, Buccaneer Keyshawn Johnson, New York Jet Shaun Ellis, Philadelphia Eagle Duce Staley and Cleveland Brown Spergon Wynn.

Thousands -- including host Magic Johnson -- were expected post-game.

Earlier in the day, four-time Super Bowl winning quarterback Joe Montana was mobbed by autograph seekers when he arrived at the Renaissance Vinoy Resort in downtown St. Petersburg to host winners of a Coca Cola/Kraft contest. At one point, hotel security had to be called to keep uninvited fans from crashing the party.

Montana was then whisked to his next event at the sprawling pink Don CeSar Beach Resort, where he signed a football for 12-year-old Bradley Bourgeois to be auctioned at the Suncoast Dream Fund auction. Some 150 more lined up for autographs at the two-hour party in the ballroom.

Parties over, the Hall of Famer headed not to the game but for the airport, and home.

For Tampa freelance bartender Sandy Harper, it had been a three-day workathon. His goatee painted purple, Harper had worked at a bar, a private party and even sold barbecue at the stadium.

He wouldn't say Sunday how much he made. Pressed, he grinned.

"In the thousands," he said.

But enough already.

"I can't wait for it to be over," he said from behind yet another bar in Ybor City, Turbulence. "I've slept like six hours all weekend."

- Times staff writers Sarah Schweitzer, Jounice Nealy and Mary Evertz contributed to this report.

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