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Ybor stumbled upon Guavaween

photo
You’re sure to see some elaborate costumes, like this skeleton made mostly of PVC pipe.
[Times files 1998]

By BABITA PERSAUD

© St. Petersburg Times, published October 29, 1999


Modeled upon Mardi Gras, Guavaween's roots run deep in Ybor.

As legend has it, in the late 1800s, Gavino
Scare up some fun
We've searched for the scariest, most fun-filled events of the season. Take a look -- if you dare.

Family fun by day, grown-ups howl at night
Here is Saturday's schedule of Guavaween events for families in the daytime, and adults in the evening.

The Ghosts of Guavaween past
It's been arty, irreverent, drunken, unprofitable, rowdy, and sometimes violent. What will Mama Guava bring in 1999?

The taming of Guavaween
Organizers didn't want the party to lose its distinct flavor, but say something had to be done to calm things down.

So much fun, it's frightening
Visit 600 rooms and a winding maze in a spooktacular five-acre haunted house.

Gutierrez, a Spanish food broker, came to Tampa looking for guava forests. He had hitched his star to guavas and imagined Americans everywhere eating guava jelly and cooking with guava paste.

But climate and rising land prices prevented his erecting a guava factory near Tampa. Ybor City became a land of cigars instead.

Gutierrez's attempt, though, wasn't forgotten by Steve Otto, then a newspaper columnist for the Tampa Times. In the 1970s he nicknamed Tampa the Big Guava. After all, New York was the Big Apple, wasn't it?

When the Ybor City Chamber of Commerce and the now defunct Playmakers Theater were looking for an annual October fund-raiser, guava was suggested as as a theme during one meeting, and the suggestion stuck.

Of course, organizers need a person, not a fruit, to lead the parade, so the myth of Mama Guava, a Chiquita-banana style woman, was born.

As the story goes, she emerged one day from a mysterious union between Jose Gaspar and a scrub palmetto. She was coated in guava paste during birth.

Every Guavaween, her task is well-defined: Take the "bore" out of Ybor.

Through Seventh Avenue, she leads her loyal followers in the Mama Guava Stumble, a parade to show participants' creative side and demonstrate how satirical they can be about current affairs.

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