TAMPA — How much do businesses and organizations love the Children's Gasparilla Parade?
So much that they've paid as much as $500 to participate — up from no cost last year — and the number of parade participants remains unchanged.
For the first time in its 63-year history, the Children's Gasparilla Parade is charging businesses $500 and private performing groups and licensed nonprofits $250 to march or ride in Saturday's family-friendly parade.
The recession and rising costs are to blame, but the effect has been surprisingly negligible, said Darrell Stefany, president of parade organizer EventFest.
This year, 131 units have signed up for the parade.
"I think people understand that when you're putting on an event like this, you have some expenses you have to pay," Stefany said. "In fact, most people we talked to said they were surprised there wasn't an entry fee prior to this."
"We haven't heard any push back at all," he said.
Fees are being used to help pay for double the usual number of portable toilets, increased security, more sound equipment and higher worker pay, which rose after the federal minimum wage was increased to $7.25 an hour last year.
Krewes say they understand.
"I am a business owner, and the Children's Parade is getting bigger and bigger and bigger," said Yvonne Painton, founder and president of Krewe of Pair O' Dice. "$250? I didn't say ouch when I saw it."
"For us, we're used to paying to enter all the other parades," said Dianne Calderazzo, office manager of the Krewe of Venus. "I don't think it was that much spread over the number of people that we have."
Fees for school marching bands and performance teams were waived, and spectating, as always, remains free.
The Gasparilla Parade of Pirates, like most parades, charges its participants. Nonprofit groups ride for free, but businesses are charged $1,000 and other entities have to fork over $500 to be part of the parade, which is organized by Ye Mystic Krewe of Gasparilla.
For years, the children's parade was able to get away without charging its participants because of sponsors, who still remain vital to putting on an event that draws about 200,000 people.
This year, McDonald's — through its local franchisee, Caspers Co. — is the title sponsor of the parade and will roll out both the S.S. McHappy float and Ronald McDonald this year.
Busch Gardens, another sponsor, will promote its Sesame Street Safari exhibit by bringing Sesame Street characters to Bayshore Boulevard.
Justin George can be reached at (813) 226-3368 or firstname.lastname@example.org.