From a town that welcomed the 1-800-Ask-Gary Amphitheatre now comes the Pin Chasers Knight Parade.
That's right. The Tampa bowling alley chain has become the title sponsor of Saturday's Krewe of Sant'Yago parade in Ybor City.
Krewe leaders teamed up with Pin Chasers to help make the event less raucous and more kid friendly. Or, in bowling speak, keep the event out of the gutter.
"Pin Chasers is a family-oriented business and we are really trying to portray our parade as a family-oriented parade,'' said co-parade chairman Simon Canasi, a krewe member since 1982.
Selling the naming rights will help defray the parade's expenses and raise more money for the krewe's education foundation, which provides scholarships to the University of South Florida, University of Tampa and Hillsborough Community College. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.
"Last year was a little tough because of the recession … but we felt that the parade reached new heights in terms of attendance and participation,'' he said. "We felt that this was the year we could reach a turning point.''
The annual parade, which dates to 1948 and has more than 110 illuminated floats, is the highest-attended event in Ybor, attracting about 100,000 spectators. The entire Jefferson High football team, which recently won the state championship, will serve as this year's grand marshal.
The krewe took over the parade in 1974 and has used CC Events to organize and market the event. When the contract ended this year, the krewe hired Wise Marketing to promote the event beyond Ybor and seek new sponsors.
Pin Chasers got involved through its chief financial officer, Michael Morris, a longtime member of the Krewe of the Knights of Sant'Yago. Officials said the parade seemed like a good avenue for pushing the company's rebranding effort.
"We wanted to keep our bowling company very contemporary and let people know that it's not a bygone past-time,'' said Anthony Perrone, Pin Chasers' chief executive officer. "The parade really fits in that.''
Pin Chasers will have a float and toss beads offering discounts on bowling. Parade-goers can bring them into one of the three locations and get a free game for every game bowled. They hope to make bowling part of the beer, beads and bawdiness.
Tom Keating, president of Ybor City Chamber of Commerce, said a bowling alley seemed like an odd choice of title sponsor, but he wasn't complaining. Adding a major sponsor will likely improve the event overall and draw more people to Ybor. The chamber's own upcoming Fiesta Day will be presented by BB&T.
"I think people are starting to have more respect for Ybor because we are such a viable market and part of everything in Tampa, from the Super Bowl to the National Convention,'' said Keating, who will be riding in the parade as Ybor's honorary mayor, the Alcalde.
To Pin Chasers, it's just good business.
"These days," Perrone said, "everything gets branded and bought.''