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Right to act obnoxious at Gasparilla is threatened by new rules

Note: None of the following actually happened.

Traditionalists Decry Gasparilla Revamp

"We'll fight for our right to party!" protesters vow at rally

TAMPA — Gasparilla enthusiasts spilled onto Bayshore Boulevard this week to vehemently protest proposed changes intended to tone down the city's raucous annual pirate fest.

Waving signs that said Drunk and Proud by 10 a.m. and Let Me Pee in Public in Peace, they walked the parade route chanting, "We're here, we have beer, get used to it!" They came to decry changes including a beefed-up security, twice the portable toilets and a more public-friendly parade route that could keep revelers off lawns and out of azaleas.

"This is bad, man," said Russell Randall, president of Ye Royal Krewe of Beer Bongers, UT Chapter. "Families might start feeling more comfortable coming back, and then where do we put our kegs camouflaged as beach chairs?"

Others spoke of proud Gasparilla tradition. "Don't they get that acting like a bunch of rugby thugs on a three-day drunk through some of Tampa's nicest neighborhoods is what this day is all about?" said Plant High grad and University of Florida freshman (taking a year off to learn to surf) C. Chad "Skip" Wellington VI, member of the Krewe of Ne'er-Do-Well Sons.

Talk of change came after residents complained of an annual siege, claims backed by YouTube videos chronicling passed-out paradegoers, alcohol-induced acrobatics and behavior so lewd police horses could be seen to blush, even as their riders kept an alert eye on the proceedings.

Also present at the rally was a cadre of First Amendment lawyers who planned to file a court brief to protect the right of female attendees to bare more than just arms. "Free speech only has meaning if it can be applied to the lowest common denominator — no matter how tacky," said attorney William W. Wonkish as he tried to keep his client from spilling rum punch on his Hermes tie.

Dressed in pirate wench garb, the client identified herself only as "Tattoo Tammi" of Tampa. "How else am I supposed to get cheap plastic beads?" she asked, swaying slightly.

Also attending the event were representatives of the Ye Underage Krewe of Fake IDs, the Royal Order of I Don't Act Like This In Real Life, and the St. Petersburg Knights Of This Would Never Happen At The Festival Of States.

While some residents would prefer the event moved elsewhere, such as Orlando, others seemed cheered by news of change. Some could be seen removing razor wire that encircled their manicured lawns. Ads on eBay selling panic rooms in South Tampa ZIP codes increased dramatically and officials confirmed that contracts to hire off-duty SWAT teams had already been canceled for next year's event.

Hyde Park resident Libby Bredwell shook her head as she watched the protest from her yard.

"Interesting, isn't it? Years back, the people who run this thing canceled the whole shebang one time rather than be forced to be less lily-white," she said. "Now we have all kinds of krewes, and they're actually making an effort to keep the neighborhoods happy."

She spotted a reveler eying her lawn. "But the more things change …" she said, and dashed off to stop him from watering her gardenias.

Right to act obnoxious at Gasparilla is threatened by new rules 05/07/09 [Last modified: Thursday, May 7, 2009 11:00pm]
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