Guavaween plan bans drinking on streets, sidewalks
By Josh Poltilove | Tribune StaffYBOR CITY - Guavaween, a unique Tampa celebration that has evolved since its inception more than a quarter-century ago, likely will change again.
Published: May 17, 2012
Published: May 17, 2012
In recent years the October spectacle has been a free-spirited but not free parade that brought out "Mama Guava" and boisterous revelers, many in off-color costumes.
The proposal for this year's party has three elements: a motorized parade, a costume contest and an indoor music festival. All but the music festival will be free.
The plan, obtained Wednesday by The Tampa Tribune, prohibits consumption of alcohol on Ybor City's sidewalks and streets. It also eliminates the event's temporary fencing, thus granting more access to businesses and streets.
"This event has evolved and changed over a lot of years from a very informal, alternative event to a fairly organized event," said Tom Keating, president of the Ybor City Chamber of Commerce. "We're trying to mature the event."
Venues and bands still must be recruited for the Oct. 27 celebration, and the proposal needs support and sponsorship from the city, Keating said.
Tickets to last year's Guavaween were $12 in advance, $17 at the gate. This year's parade and costume contest will be public and free; the music festival will charge admittance.
Guavaween brings thousands of people to Ybor each year and tens of thousands of dollars into the chamber of commerce's coffers. The event first was held in October 1985. Its name is a seasonal spin on Tribune columnist Steve Otto's tongue-in-cheek nickname for Tampa, "The Big Guava."
The annual event brought attention to Ybor at a time when the historic neighborhood was being reinvented as an entertainment district.
But when Ybor merchants recently met to discuss the event, they agreed it could be detrimental to businesses, said Richard Boom, who runs a pub on Seventh Avenue, Ybor's main thoroughfare. Boom, speaking on behalf of a newly formed Ybor merchants' association, voiced concerns during a Tampa City Council meeting in March.
"We initially got together as a group of merchants to voice our objection to the model that Guavaween has pursued with the gate and the fence and the cover charge," he said.
Merchants pitched alternatives – including a music festival.
This year's motorized parade is proposed to run from 7:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 27. It would begin at Nuccio Parkway and Seventh Avenue, head east and end at 20th Street. Thirty to 40 floats are anticipated.
Next would be the 45-minute costume contest, beginning at 8:45 p.m. in Centro Ybor's courtyard.
The event would end with a live music festival at six to nine venues along Seventh and Eighth avenues, Keating said. The first set would run from 9:30 p.m. to 11 p.m. and the second set would be from 11:30 p.m. to 1 a.m.
Festival wristbands would be sold in advance and at the venues, and would be required for entry.
The worries Boon voiced in March weren't the first time in recent years that Guavaween has been criticized.
Motorized floats were banned from the event in 2009 and 2010, a move that had some parade participants – local "krewes" with varied missions and themes – ditching Guavaween altogether.
Eliminating motorized floats meant there no longer was a need for parade barricades, which were costly to set up and remove, parade leaders said.
When organizers decided to ban the floats, they said, they didn't anticipate the change would affect parade participation or attendance.
But last year motorized floats returned by "popular demand," according to the chamber. At the time of that decision, Keating said bringing back floats would increase attendance, bringback some krewes and make merchants happy.
"The krewes and the floats and the beads are part of the celebration," Keating said at the time. "People like it. It adds value to the event."
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