Guavaween attendance down, but organizers still pleased
TAMPA - Never mind the warm weather or the scaled-down parade. The real reason for the sparse attendance at this weekend's Guavaween celebration in Ybor City may have been the calendar. A Guavaween that falls on the same day as Halloween carries the curse of a smaller crowd, organizers say. "We were competing with parties and trick-or-treating," said Tom Keating, president and chief executive officer of the Ybor City Chamber of Commerce and main planner of the bash. In years past, the party along Seventh Avenue has drawn upward of 50,000 raucous folks. This year, maybe 15,000 showed up, he said.Still, this year's event was termed a success because the throng of costumed revelers was so well behaved. Tampa police arrested 28 Guavaweeners, mostly on underage drinking charges. "It had a nice feel, good energy," Keating said. "The quality of the crowd was better. It may have been a little less raucous. They weren't down here to guzzle down. They were here to hang with friends. And, the bottom line was that nobody got hurt. "When nobody gets hurt," he said, "that's a good day." Several factors may have helped trim attendance, including a sluggish economy that possibly discouraged people from plunking down a $17 entrance fee and parking fees, plus the cost of eating and drinking. Organizers also decided to keep motorized floats out of the parade this year, mainly to save the $10,000 it would have cost to rent and erect and take down barricades along the six-block parade route. Instead, horse-drawn floats lumbered down the street. Chad McChesney lives in Ybor City and had invited some friends to town for Guavaween. He was disappointed to learn of the admission fee and that the parade had no motorized floats. He and his friends made other plans. "To have to pay $17 to $20 to get into somewhere that went from 100,000 to 10,000 people and no floats - absolutely ridiculous," he said. Gaspar's Grotto manager Nick Gordon said business was less than he expected Saturday night at the bar and restaurant. That's not necessarily a bad thing, he said. "We didn't have any fights, didn't have any crowd problems or control problems," he said, "So that was nice." Next year, Halloween falls on a Sunday, so, attendance should rebound, Keating said. "This isn't just about the numbers," he said. "This is a high quality event. It has moved from being just a beer bash on the street to being a really nice event."
News Channel 8 reporter Krista Klaus contributed to this report. Reporter Keith Morelli can be reached at (813) 259-7760.