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A fine RNC party, but we could have used more Tampa Bay

It was a fine party, and I'm sure the folks from Iowa felt right at home.

In fact, it could have been their home. As well as Delaware's. Or Oregon's.

The RNC kickoff party at Tropicana Field Sunday evening was pleasant, relaxing and thoroughly successful. It was also the tourism equivalent of a beige four-door sedan.

If the idea was to keep delegates and guests well-fed, then it succeeded.

If the idea was to keep them tipsy, the rum poured all night long.

If the idea was to keep them dry, the Trop was finally appreciated.

But if the idea was to introduce thousands of visitors to the charm of Tampa Bay, then delegates might have been better off waiting for an open table at the Hurricane. Or Frenchy's Rockaway Grill. Or Kojak's House of Ribs.

Not that the event was insufficient or unimpressive. Considering the host committee had less than 24 hours to go from spit-out sunflower seeds in the outfield turf to a party for thousands of people from across the country, the effort was pretty remarkable.

I'm just not sure it screamed Tampa Bay. Or even whispered it.

Sure, there were Cuban sandwiches and grouper sliders. There were Buccaneers cheerleaders and a handful of acts from Busch Gardens.

But I'm not sure anybody who walked outside of that party had any better feel for Florida or Tampa Bay than they did when they walked in a few hours earlier.

The NFL throws a party on Friday night before every Super Bowl, and the host city typically tries to make it unique to its market. So San Diego had a party on a Marine Corps base with airplanes as décor. Miami had a party in a zoo where you could get a picture taken with a tiger cub on your lap. Philadelphia had its World Series party at the National Constitution Center, and Texas had racing armadillos at a dude ranch.

The point is you knew something about the host city by the time you left those parties. All you knew when you left the Trop in St. Petersburg Sunday night is that you would pay good money to find that recipe for maraschino cupcakes.

Heck, even the protesters seemed off their game. An hour before the party, about 10 protesters stopped at a gas station to load up on chips and soda. And then they took a group picture in front of a personal defense sign advertising Tasers, mace and stun guns.

First thought: Anarchists have family albums?

Second thought: Revolutionaries prefer Cheetos?

In the end, there was one important takeaway from Sunday night's festivities:

We don't scare easily around here.

We respect the power of hurricanes, and we prepare accordingly for them, but we don't cower unnecessarily when we see squalls on the gulf. Sitting out on a deck with an ice cold rum runner when the skies turn dark and the winds kick in, is about as Florida as it gets.

So don't let a little wind or rain keep you from exploring Tampa Bay. With a lot of events canceled today, you have the perfect opportunity to explore the funky cafes in downtown Dunedin or the sand at Pass-a-Grille Beach or the history of Ybor City.

If you're lucky, you might even run across a local hurricane party.

All you have to do is follow the sound of Jimmy Buffett tunes.

A fine RNC party, but we could have used more Tampa Bay 08/26/12 [Last modified: Sunday, August 26, 2012 11:54pm]
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