Thousands of beads — and one rainbow flag — will fly during Saturday's annual Krewe of Sant'Yago Illuminated Knight Parade.
For the first time, the group representing gay-owned and gay-friendly businesses in Ybor City will have a float in the parade bearing the rainbow flag.
"It's going to be history-making,'' said Mark Bias, secretary of the GaYbor District Coalition. "We're such a dynamic force in Ybor, why not be represented in the parade?''
About 30 coalition members, along with a guy called Mr. Leather and two Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, will ride on the float, a rental dubbed the Krewe of Ybor. They will toss 14 cases' worth of beads.
Members will dress as traditional pirates. No boas or excessive glitter. "Nothing too flamboyant,'' Bias said. "This is our first time. We're trying to behave ourselves.''
The coalition plans to keep a low profile, given gay groups' past involvement in the parade.
In 2002, the Krewe of Cavaliers, the parade's only gay club, was banned from the lineup after Krewe of Sant'Yago officials said they received anonymous complaints about suggestive behavior.
The Cavaliers were reinstated and are in the parade this year. They did not return messages seeking comment on the coalition's participation.
Mark Valenti, the Krewe of Sant'Yago's parade chairman and vice baron, said all groups are treated equally and any problems are addressed in the same manner. The decision to allow the GaYbor District Coalition — or anyone else — into the 120-unit parade was based on its float, costumes and space available.
On Saturday, parade marshals will inspect the floats and check for violations, which include displaying advertising and political messages.
Valenti didn't foresee any problems with the GaYbor contingent. They have a nice float.
"The Krewe of Sant'Yago is a melting pot of Ybor City and we try not to discriminate against anybody,'' he said.