Entering its second year, Fantasma Fest is redefining how Ybor City celebrates Halloween.
Organized by the Ybor Merchants Association's 32 members, the Fantasma Fest focuses on a series of family-friendly and wholesome adult Halloween activities running through Halloween.
“Ybor City has a well-established reputation as one of the country's top Halloween destinations,” said Richard Boom, spokesman for the Fantasma Fest and owner of the The Dirty Shame bar, 1929 E. Seventh Ave., Ybor City.
However, in the past decade that reputation was tarnished by reports of raucous parties, lewd behavior and drunken brawls.
“We've really pushed to overcome the negative image Ybor gained 10 years ago. We want Tampa residents to know that Ybor City is a very safe, fun place to visit,” said Boom.
Boom said Fantasma Fest was created to secure Ybor City's ranking as a top U.S. Halloween destination while mending its reputation.
“We came up with Fantasma Fest in deference to Ybor City's Latin heritage,” said Boom. “Fantasma is Latin for phantom or spirit and ties into the fact that Ybor City is said to be haunted. People claim to have seen spirits here, including the ghost of a man wearing a white suit. We even have haunted tours in Ybor City.”
Ybor merchants have expanded Fantasma Fest offerings with the help of a new sponsorship from the Ybor City Development Corp.
This year's festival kicked off Oct. 14 with a Witches Brew Bartender Competition underwritten by title sponsor Jim Beam.
“We had 24 bartenders from Ybor bars and restaurants competing to create the best cocktails using Jim Beam's Devil's Cut and Jacob's Ghost bourbon whiskey products,” said Boom. “The winning cocktail will be featured throughout the festival.”
The festivities continue today with a Zombie Crawl and Zombie Prom at the Honey Pot nightclub.
“The event begins at The Dirty Shame at 4 p.m. where we'll have professional makeup artists from Busch Gardens on hand to help visitors get zombie-fied,” said Boom. “The zombie horde will then crawl up Seventh Avenue at 7 p.m. to the Honey Pot where the Zombie Prom will start at 9:30 p.m. We did this last year and everyone had a great time.”
Kids are invited to join in the Halloween fun Saturday with a free Little Monsters Promenade and a Kids Pumpkin Patch from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Centro Ybor. “Last year we had 300 pumpkins laid out on the steps of Centro Ybor,” said Boom. “Kids were invited to pick out a pumpkin, and volunteers helped them decorate the pumpkins and create Halloween masks. It was very popular last year so this year we're bringing in 500 pumpkins.”
In addition to decorating pumpkins, costumed kids will receive treat bags so they can trick or treat at businesses along Seventh Avenue. A new event this year is the Monster Bed Race, also on Saturday from 2:30 to 5:30 p.m.
“I saw a bed race in North London and it was hilarious,” said Boom. “Since then, I've wanted to do one here.”
During the race, Seventh Avenue will be closed from 15th to 17th streets. Teams of five costumed contestants are invited to devise Halloween-decorated beds on wheels to race down Seventh Avenue. The bed race will be followed by the WitchCraft Beer and Music Fest from 6 to 9 p.m. A $30 wrist band entitles adults to sample up to 50 craft beers at six locations where local bands will entertain.
The Hell on Wheels Motorcycle Poker Run and Pub Crawl on Sunday gets under way with food and drinks at The Dirty Shame. For $15 per person or $25 per couple, bikers will travel to the The Green Iguana, The Reservoir Bar, The Boneyard Bar, First Chance Last Chance and Coyote Ugly, where they'll pick up poker cards. At the final stop, The Bad Monkey Bar, 1717 E. Seventh Ave., Ybor City, the biker with the best poker hand will receive a prize.
A celebration will follow at 4 p.m., with raffles, a silent auction and Hell on Wheels T-shirts for sale, with all proceeds benefiting My Warrior's Place, a veterans support center in Ruskin.
The final Fantasma Fest event will take place on Halloween with a Halloween party at The Castle, 2004 N. 16th Ave., Ybor City.
“Our ultimate goal is to bring in business and show people what a wonderful, safe, fun historic district Ybor City is,” said Boom. “It's a new day in Ybor City and we want to make Fantasma Fest a trademark event.”
For information, visit www.Fantasmafest.com or www.ybornow.com.
Zombie Crawl and Zombie Prom: 4 p.m. (makeup), 7 p.m. (crawl) tonight; Dirty Shame, 1929 E. Seventh Ave., Tampa and 9:30 p.m. tonight; Honey Pot, 1507 E. Seventh Ave., Tampa
Storytime: Ghost Stories: 7 to 10 p.m. tonight; Creative Loafing Space, 1011 N. 13th St., Tampa; $5 suggested donation
Little Monsters Promenade and Pumpkin Patch: 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday; Centro Ybor, 1600 E. Eighth Ave., Tampa; free
Monster Bed Race: 2:30 p.m. Saturday, Seventh Avenue between 15th and 17th avenues; free
WitchCraft Beer and Music Festival: 6 to 9 p.m. Saturday; various locations; $30 armband; www.ybornow.com
Hell on Wheels Motorcycle Rally and Polker Walk: noon to 5 p.m., Sunday; Bad Monkey, 1717 E. Seventh Ave., Tampa
Halloween Ball: 9 p.m. Thursday; The Castle, 2004 N. 16th St., Tampa; $8
Go to ybornow.com for more information.