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Costumed debauchery in the name of charity

This year’s Guavaween, “Are You a Good Witch or a Bad Witch?” will kick off Saturday in Ybor. The celebration is surrounded by myths, rumors and legends that are unknown to many revelers.

The story behind the name of Guavaween starts with a fruit. A long time ago, a local columnist starting calling Ybor the “Big Guava,” like New York is the “Big Apple.” What is interesting about this is that a Tampa pioneer tried to grow guavas here commercially, but couldn’t because of money and the weather.

Guavaween will be led, as always, by the mysterious and legendary Mama Guava.

According to the official Guavaween Web site, Mama Guava “has proclaimed that she will abandon her veil of secrecy to take the ‘bore’ out of Ybor and prove once and for all that the Big Guava is succulent, juicy and ripe for greatness. Her followers will convene to celebrate her re-emergence on the holiday named for her: Guavaween.”

Some students are looking forward to the myth-based fest.

“I think it will be fun. I have heard it’s kind of scary. You have to go in groups of people, but I just like to watch crazy people,” said Christina Page, a freshman majoring in athletic training.

These “crazy people” are anticipated by event .

“Our precautions are there are over 200 police officers and do slight gate checks,” said Teri Cox Hickey, CC Events President. CC Events provides security througout the night and is the company in charge of the event.

“We do not allow anything that resembles weapons, even if its part of the costume. I have done the event for 13 years, our arrest record usually averages right around 25 to 30 per year, and out of 60,000 to 80,000 people is pretty minimal.”

There are a few new additions to the festival, this year. There will be a new haunted house as well as a classic rock and a local music stage. The parade will be kicking off at 8 p.m. , a little later than normal.

In accordance with Halloween tradition, those who plan to attend should come in full costume. At 10 p.m., the Features Costume Contest will take place with a prize of $2,000 up for grabs.

What many people do not know is that Guavaween is a charity event, with the proceeds going to the Ybor City Chamber of Commerce.

Guavaween usually attracts more than 100,000 people, so parking can be an issue. Luckily, there are bus shuttles with departure locations all around Tampa, at the Florida State Fairgrounds, Raymond James Stadium, the Sun Dome and Wagon Wheel Flea Market. For those who want to actually park in Ybor, come early.

The Family Funfest part of Guavaween begins at 10 a.m. and ends at 3 p.m. The adult party, the Night of Costumed Revelry, begins after the family festivities end. Admission is $5 for the family celebration and the adult party is $15.