Fondest memory: We got up around five thirty or six the day after my parents' 60th Anniversary in early April. We had been itching to leave for weeks but we'd stayed specifically to spend that day with them. As it turned out it was the last anniversary they would have with my Mom passing away only five months after we'd returned from the six month trip. That we did the right thing is an understatement in both waiting and also in going. My parents have always understood my need to hit the open road and with me approaching 50 this time was no exception. We enjoyed the day with them and after a restless sleep got up without the aid of an alarm clock and hopped into our packed car. The drive across Alligator Alley would normally be a tedious trip but when you're setting out for six months, man it seemed like the most scenic road in the country. We were in Ybor in plenty of time to walk around the small if charming little town and snap a few photos waiting for the local brewpub to open. In fact, we found a half hour was more than enough time to explore the little gem and were practically waiting at the door to the pub when it opened. Good seats at the bar? Sure, at 11:30 on a Wednesday. Since we were on the road we shared a couple beers with an equal number of soft pretzels served with mustard and a cheese sauce. Everything was tasty but with another hour or so to drive that day we opted to head out sooner than we might have otherwise liked. (completed below in Fondest Memory)
We secured a room in Crystal River and ate food we had in the car. It would be an early night as we would have an untimely morning wake up once again, this time to swim with the manatees which was the reason for this stop in the first place. My wife had been living in Florida for four years without ever seeing one and this was to be her best chance, ideally up close, in the water. It was a bit chilly on the boat ride out to spot them and I was less than thrilled with the idea of jumping in the water but this notion disappeared when we spotted a few of the enormous sea cows nuzzling each other like spring lovers. It was unfortunately in the channel and we weren't allowed in the water there so kept going to noted areas of their presence. We were soon enough in the water which we found to be pretty murky for a place called Crystal River! Actually, it was late in the season and the clarity of the water was known to go down considerably this time of year. I swam around for 45 minutes or so in vain. We didn't see any manatees though one could have been three feet from us and we wouldn't have been able to see it. Doreen was already back on the boat when I got back, shivering.
The ride back to the dock was an even chillier one now that we were wet. Since we'd been in freshwater we didn't need a shower so toweled off, changed our clothes and were soon back on the road. We'd had a busy couple days, trying a few new beers and seeing if not swimming with the manatees. Or was that the other way around? We were back in the car on our way to Destin, FL with its snow-white beach. And you might have guessed it, there was another brewpub I'd never been and I was going to meet a beer about a dinner.
Shelly, my running mate in Orlando, and I went on a Lost Weekend that incorporated WORK. Now how does one PLAY HARD while trying to be responsible and WORK? We found this is NOT EASY! We were hired by (now former) friends to collect signatures for YET ANOTHER specialty license tag for the Great State of Flo-Doh! (Florida has 53 specialty tags...)
All the photos are of the Kids that participated in the Guavaween Costume Contest.
Fondest memory: Finding Free Parking! And the car not being broken into when I returned!
We were to be paid $15 an hour to go to a festival in Ybor City / Tampa on Saturday (Guavaween) and then another festival at Madeira Beach / St. Pete on Sunday ("Grouper Fest" as in the fish!). Each festival has it's own unique history; each setting has it's own unique history.
This family kinda "THEMED." Note the Mom is wearing hot pants and is a "Cop".. two boys are Pimps... The dad and little girl; Not sure...
Fondest memory: Laughing out loud at the many costumes...
You shall learn about each in their respective VT pages. Currently you are in the Ybor City sight, so I shall tell you a little bit about WHAT Guavaween Fest is... what Ybor City's background is... and somewhere in there, you will also learn about Shelly and Hexe's Great Adventure.
Fondest memory: The Winner is this little girl in a "bubble bath." We loved the costume and took pictures prior to her being awarded the winner! we had a hunch this was a good costume. Well, later, we saw the parents carting her out and we asked how she did. They said she won first place! The little girl was playing with a stuffed animal that she won. The parents won two tkts system-wide on Southwest. How cool is that?!
What is Guavaween? Guavaween is the Halloween party in Tampa's Ybor City. Guavaween is always held on the last Saturday in the month of October. Prior to the late night fun there is a parade for the kids. Once the parade is over the fun begins.
Fondest memory: Keep in mind, Shelly and I had to collect signatures... and we were in the midst of the Family Section of the Festival. And there was the kid costume contest going on. Wasn't the BEST spot to be in. And we didn't have a table, either. But some jesus followers came by and saved our souls. That was pretty cool!
Guavaween Advice Wear a costume! - This may seem obvious, but the majority of people at Guavaween show up to gawk and not to participate. Trust me when I say that the better your costume is, the better time you will have. If the Ybor City commisioners were wise they would charge those without a costume a higher entrance fee
Fondest memory: Shelly was SO into the costumes. That was cool. We'd go from collecting signatures to taking photos in a snap!
Make Wise Beverage Choices - You don't need to drink Fosters or Bud. At one end of the strip The Tampa Bay Brewing Company serves up premium hand-crafted beers in convenient to go cups. At the other end of the strip, Zion has a decent selection of quality ales. There is no need to sacrifice beverage quality on Guavaween.
Fondest memory: MY FAVORITE COSTUME and little kid. This little boy was just adorable. I had to feed him while his mom signed our petition. He was very well behaved and good natured. Just a little ham! He was dressed up ( and his stroller too!) as a little pumpkin!
Keep Moving - The more you move, the more costumes you'll see. Sitting on your ass in one location is not the best way to experience Guavaween. Late in the night when 7th clogs up, get off the street and head into one of the clubs.
Fondest memory: Shelly's favorite costume! The mom made the entire costume! Pretty cute kid and made us both HUNGRY for some bird!
Daylight Savings - Unless Guavaween falls on October 31st ,then this night we roll our clocks back an hour for daylight savings. Be prepared to for that extra hour of partying. In other words, pace yourself. But there is lots to drink. Pace yourself, but have fun too!
Fondest memory: This little girl was a cutie!
Favorite thing: Long ago, Tampa pioneer Gavino Gutierrez tried to cultivate guava commercially here, but was unsuccessful because of the climate and rising land prices. However, a local newspaper columnist was successful in planting the idea that if New York is the "Big Apple," then it follows that Tampa must be the "Big Guava." And that's how it all began. For thirteen years, the mythical Mama Guava has led her loyal band of followers in the Mama Guava Stumble parade. Although Mama has sworn to take the "bore" out of Ybor, her job -- quite frankly -- is an easy one, at least for this one day.
Favorite thing: Ybor City, a section of the large metropolitan area of Tampa, Florida, owes its beginning to three Spaniards who came to the "New World" in the 19th century: Gavino Gutierrez, Vicente Martinez Ybor, and Ignacio Haya. Ybor immigrated to Cuba in 1832, at the age of 14. He worked as a clerk in a grocery store, then as a cigar salesman, and in 1853 he started his own cigar factory in Havana.
Favorite thing: Labor unrest, the high tariff on Cuban cigars, and the start of the Cuban Revolution in 1868 caused Ybor to move his plant and his workers to Key West, Florida. While his business there was successful, labor problems and the lack of a good fresh water supply and a transportation system for distributing his products led him to consider moving his business to a new location.
Favorite thing: Gavino Gutierrez came to the United States from Spain in 1868. He settled in New York City, but he traveled often–to Cuba, to Key West, and to the small town of Tampa, Florida, searching for exotic fruits such as mangoes and guavas. During a visit to Key West in 1884, he convinced Ybor and Ignacio Haya, a cigar factory owner from New York who was visiting Ybor, to travel to Tampa to investigate its potential for cigar manufacturing.
Favorite thing: After visiting Tampa in 1885, both Haya and Ybor decided to build cigar factories in the area. Gutierrez surveyed an area two miles from Tampa, even drawing up a map to show where streets might run. Ybor purchased 40 acres of land and began to construct a factory. He continued to manufacture cigars in Key West as well, until a fire destroyed his factory there in 1886. Afterwards, Ybor spent all of his time on his operations in the Tampa area. At age 68, Ybor began developing a company town "with the hope of providing a good living and working environment so that cigar workers would have fewer grievances against owners."1