[an error occurred while processing this directive]
Fiesta Day's multicultural whirl showcases all that is good in Ybor City.
By MICHAEL CANNING, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times, published February 8, 2001
The Ybor City Chamber of Commerce's annual Fiesta Day returns to remind us of two things: Ybor has a rich multicultural heritage, and this event doesn't need a parade to survive.
Affer breaking away from the Sant'Yago Knight Parade and Family Festival in 1998, Fiesta Day is going strong. By chamber estimates, 40,000 people attended last year's event, which showcases ethnic music, cuisine and crafts in the historic entertainment district.
That number is far fewer than the roughly 100,000 the old Fiesta Day/Knight Parade event typically drew, and that's exactly the point. "Fiesta Day was growing into its own major event," said Paul Garris of the chamber, "and the night parade was growing into its own major event. The coordination and the logistics to get them both done on the same day became impossible."
Not to mention the traffic gridlock, litter, and violence and vandalism that prompted many Ybor merchants and residents to protest that one Guavaween is enough.
So in recent years Fiesta Day has gotten back to celebrating Ybor City, rather than overwhelming it. And it's the multicultural aspect of Ybor that is center stage. The International Food Fair at Centennial Park will have 20 vendors selling Asian, Mexican, Spanish, Italian, Greek and other cuisines. It's there that, in keeping with a longstanding Fiesta Day tradition, visitors who prove they're from out of town will be treated to free Spanish bean soup, Cuban bread and cafe con leche.
Also in Centennial Park, the Kids Fiesta area will have a petting zoo including a kangaroo, pony ride, train ride, roving clown, face painting and a Moonwalk.
At 18th Street between Seventh and Eighth avenues, the Arts and Crafts Marketplace will feature 60 arts and crafts specialists selling jewelry, artists, candles, yard furniture and many other goods. Live music from three stages will provide a backdrop for the proceedings.
At 4 p.m., the International Parade of Flags will start on Seventh Avenue at 15th Street, and will continue to 20th Street. The flags of 50 nations will festoon the procession, which, for a bit of seasonal contrast, won't have any floats. But it will have local television personality (and current Ybor Alcalde, or honorary mayor) Jack Harris, the Buffalo Soldiers krewe, Tampa city council members, and Panacea, Philip Shore Elementary's steel drum band. state Sen. Les Miller, D-Tampa, will be parade marshal.
The streets within the festival's boundaries, which are Seventh through Ninth avenues between 15th and 21st streets, will be closed to vehicle traffic during the event.
Michael Canning can be reached at (813) 226-3408, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
American Stage, 1500 block of Seventh Avenue