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Global audience can virtually relish Gasparilla

Ye Mystic Krewe teams up with a high-tech entrepreneur for a first.

By BABITA PERSAUD

© St. Petersburg Times, published December 21, 2000


TAMPA -- Gasparilla is going global.

For the first time, folks around the world will be able to experience swashbuckling and bead-throwing live on the Internet when Gasparilla takes over Tampa on Jan. 27, the day before Super Bowl Sunday.

The person making it possible: Keith White, a high-tech entrepreneur and an African-American.

The last time Gasparilla teamed with the Super Bowl -- 10 years ago -- blacks protested the lack of diversity in Ye Mystic Krewe of Gasparilla, the organizer of the event. In the end, the parade was canceled.

This time, "I think that Ye Mystic Krewe wanted to make sure the vendors involved looked much like the citizens of Tampa," White said Wednesday from his New York City home.

The day of Gasparilla, White will have a film crew stationed along the parade route. Other details are still being worked out, such as the Web site that will feature the live feed. It might be MVC1.com, the Web site for White's company.

Last summer, White approached Ye Mystic Krewe, which saw it as an opportunity to fulfill its mission statement to promote tourism in Tampa, said Jim Tarbet, the krewe's executive director.

Born and raised in Tampa, White remembers Gasparilla fondly. "As a kid, we would look forward to going to Gasparilla every year. It was exciting to see all the pirates, the beads being thrown, the candy being thrown. Here it is some 27 years later, I have the opportunity to expose Gasparilla to the world."

White graduated from Jefferson High School and Howard University, majoring in marketing.

Five years ago, White became interested in wireless cable, video on demand and interactive cable.

"My whole thought was that if any of these broadcast distribution platforms emerged, then one of the things they will need is content, and I set out to be an aggregator of content," said White.

He founded MVC1 (Multi-Video Channel One) two years ago. At first, the company distributed entertainment programming to TV stations, including Fox's WVTV-Ch.13 in Tampa. The Internet division was added in April.

Online viewers will be able to access the Gasparilla site 30 to 60 days after the actual event.

The venture is costing Ye Mystic Krewe five figures, said White -- a cost it hopes to cover through sponsorship advertising on the Web site.

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