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Tuesday, Oct 16, 2018
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Guavaween returns to Ybor City with $1,000 costume contest

Ybor City’s historic Cuban Club will become a haunted wasteland when Guavaween: Apocalypse takes over on Saturday.

The Halloween celebration will return to Tampa for its 30th year, 6 p.m.-2 a.m., for those 21 and older. The theme will feature decorations and entertainment inspired by a post-apocalyptic environment.

“The Cuban Club lot of asphalt and concrete walls really works well with the theme,” said Ferdian Jap, partner at Big City Events, which is co-organizing the event with 813area.com. “All we need to do is complement it with other décor, and attendees will feel like they are transported to an apocalyptic world. Additionally, we believe that ‘Mad Max’ will be one of the most popular (costumes) this year, mixing apocalyptic and steampunk.”

The event’s popular costume contest will offer a $1,000 cash prize to the overall winner. Every contestant will have the opportunity to show off their getup on a side stage in front of a panel of judges that will include Mama Guava, the event’s figurehead.

The main stage will be anchored by Highway to Hell, an AC/DC tribute band; rock band Scream Machine; and DJ Fresh, who will serve as host and emcee the costume contest.

A plan for a new “Lady Guava” to replace Mama Guava was scrapped, Jap said, after a small public outcry.

This is the second time that Big City Events and 813area.com have co-organized the event.

“We are excited to produce this year’s Guavaween because this is the second chance we have to implement and improve upon our concept of a confined and gated Guavaween,” Jap said. “Last year’s event drew over 3,500 people, and we are hoping to beat that.”

Not long ago, Guavaween was a street festival with a wild reputation. For decades, the event drew tens of thousands of revelers to Ybor’s Seventh Avenue for the Mama Guava Stumble Parade. Sexually explicit costumes, barbaric behavior and drunken brawls were the norm. In 2009, for example, the event was deemed a success after only 28 Guavaweeners were arrested.

In 2012, the parade was canceled due to high costs and local business complaints. It was replaced by a music festival, which drew fewer attendees.

The next year, organizers brought back the event as a family-friendly costume contest at Centro Ybor, but the calmed-down celebration still didn’t draw much of a crowd.

Last year, Big City and 813area produced a 21-and-older version at the Cuban Club, located at 2010 Avenida Republica de Cuba in Tampa. It was more upscale, but it kept the vibe of creative expression, edgy theatrics and exhibitionism that has come to characterize Guavaween.

“It also went on without any incidents as far as safety of our attendees, unlike the previous years,” Jap said.

Advanced tickets for Guavaween: Apocalypse are available for $17 for general admission, and $75 for VIP, which includes unlimited drinks. Prices will increase incrementally to $20 and $85 respectively until the day of the event. Proceeds from Guavaween benefit the Ybor City Chamber of Commerce.

“Imagine thousands of people around you in costumes,” Jap said. “It will be a sight to see and really transport you into the post-apocalyptic theme. Even if you don’t want to dress up … the people watching is the best part.”