SOUTH TAMPA – Airmen short on beads at Gasparilla?
When Brian McCrea, president of the Krewe of Saint Florian, heard about MacDill Air Force Base personnel not having enough beads to throw during last year's parade, he decided to do something about it.
So McCrea, his krewe of firefighters, other krewes and a former Tampa Bay Buccaneer and his family all set out to supply this airman with all the beads they could toss.
“A few months back, I found out the military folks ran out about halfway through the parade,” McCrea said. “This is just not appropriate for people serving our country.”
By last week, McCrea and others had 20 cases of donated beads for the approximately 30 airmen who rode a float on Saturday's parade to throw to waiting hands along the route. They also received special beads with a medallion for the Air Force to keep.
There is no specific funding for beads and such, said Master Sgt. James Register of MacDill, who coordinated the donation with the krewe. Each squadron has an organization and some money from that organization is used for beads for the airmen selected from the squadron for the honor of riding in the parade.
“But with the Air Force cutting back on what there is, there just isn't much. And that money could be used for other things like barbecues,” to build spirit and support family togetherness, Register said. “This means less money is going out of the limited funds.”
McCrea said the average price for a case of beads is $50 with larger or more elaborate beads going for $100 or more a case. A parade participant averages about two cases of beads thrown per parade, he said.
To collect the beads, McCrea asked other krewes to donate to the fund or just buy an extra case and leave it at Buccaneer Beads, a supply store in East Tampa, which kept the beads until the donation was made Jan. 21.
“The average person can go through $600 to $3,000 in beads in a parade season,” said Lenore Amato, owner of Buccaneer Beads. She said that also can include specialty beads, like the Air Force medallion, that are traded or given as gifts. Those can cost $3.50 to $8.50 per strand.
To secure the beads for the donation, McCrea also reached out to former Tampa Bay Buccaneer Martin Gramatica and his family's foundation. The former kicker, his children and his brother, Santiago, came to help donate the beads.
“They told us about it and we wanted to help MacDill out. We are originally from Argentina and we can appreciate living in freedom as so many in South America don't,” said Martin Gramatica.
The link was also natural, he said, because the Gramatica Family Foundation helps build homes for wounded veterans.