In the early 1970s, a Tampa Tribune columnist decided that if New York is the “Big Apple,” Tampa should be coined as the “Big Guava.” That same year, the Guavaween festivities began. Guavaween is celebrated in honor of Tampa pioneer Gavino Gutierrez and his unsuccessful attempts to cultivate quava, a fruit, commercially in the area.
In its 18th year running, Guavaween is set to transform Ybor City into a mass of gaudy costumes and flying beads Saturday night. With a number of different stages for entertainment, the mass of people will have much to choose from Saturday.
Guavaween’s evening festivities launch at the TropicalFest stage at 4 p.m. in Centennial Park with the Guava Love It! Cooking Contest. Creative concoctions of guava will be the focus of the competition with a first place prize of $250.
The Mama Guava Stumble Parade, an annual Guavaween event similar to a Mardi Gras parade, hits the streets at 6:30 p.m., followed by the Features Costume Contest located at the Thunder stage at 9 p.m.
With past winners bedecked as a Sumo drill team and a headless newlywed couple, this year’s costume conqueror will take home a cash prize of $1,000.
Senior Brian Stephens, who wore pink platforms and a neon green sequined mini-skirt last year, is keeping his 2001 costume plans a secret until Saturday.
“All my friends are planning out how to outdo me,” he said, with an evil smile aimed at his competitor and friend, senior Mike Wilson, standing beside him. “Can’t wait to see their faces, though. They’ll never expect what I’m going to wear.”
While mysterious disguises appeal to certain crowds, others go to Guavaween for the live entertainment.
A total of 24 bands will bring pop, rock and Latin music to the night of costume revelry. Local radio and television station-sponsored stages will be scattered across the party spot.
93.3 FLZ will take its program to the intersection of Ninth Avenue and 19th Street. The lineup includes Lifehouse, whose “Hanging By a Moment” and “No Name Face” topped recent charts. Local pop band PYT also joins the crew with EXACT and Olive Carpet.
98 Rock’s stage, located at the southwest corner of Seventh Avenue and 15th Street, will include the likes of Disturbed, Stereomud, Drowning Pool, Adema and Systematic.
Thunder Rock will also sponsor a stage within Centennial Park, bordered by Eighth and Ninth avenues and 18th and 19th streets. The lineup includes Supernatural and Bush Hounds and breaks for the costume contest. It will end with Mark Farner of Grand Funk Railroad.
New to Guavaween is TropicalFest. Local media partners Tropical 680, Amor 1550 and Telemundo join ranks in the heart of Centro Ybor with this all-Latin stage. Entertainment after the cooking contest is full of Latin flavor with performances by Puerto Rican Power, Fulanito, Cana Brava, Proyecto Uno, Ley Alejandro, Eduardo Verastegui, Ricardo & Alberto, Rolando Y Su Dan Den, Jive V and Liza.
Daytime events, which run from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., will encompass children’s activities, a pumpkin give away, dance shows and trick-or-treating. Admission is $2; children in costume are admitted for free.
The nighttime portion of the event, which officially begins at 4 p.m., requires a $10 ticket. Tickets can be purchased in advance through Ticketmaster or at the gates the night of Guavaween. As usual, it is advised to think twice about keeping children on the strip past dusk.
The event includes the choice of parking near Ybor City – with the parking proximity, expect a slightly emptier wallet – or the less-expensive shuttle alternative. Parking in Ybor may cost as much as $20 for a single car. However, admission is discounted with the purchase of a shuttle ride; roundtrip shuttle and Guavaween entrance is $13, or $6 for roundtrip only.
Shuttles start running at 11 a.m. from the Florida State Fairgrounds. Various locations, including the USF Sun Dome, are added at 4 p.m. Visitors are asked to remember that the last trip of all routes leaves Ybor at 3 a.m.; previous years have seen a multitude of latecomers stuck in Ybor at dawn.
According to the Ybor City Chamber of Commerce, added security measures have been taken to ensure the safety of all visitors.
For information, call the Guavaween Hot Line at (813) 242-4828 or visit .