TAMPA — Ilya Goldberg couldn't stop laughing when he heard the Ybor Chamber of Commerce plans to make Guavaween more of a family friendly, daytime event.
"That's the funniest thing I've heard this year," said Goldberg, the owner of The Stone Soup Company, a restaurant on 7th Avenue. "Maybe we should go ahead and take Bourbon Street and make that Disney World."
The chamber announced Thursday that it wants to change Guavaween, an Ybor tradition of costumes and drunken debauchery held for more than 20 years on the last Saturday before Halloween, into more of a street fair held in the afternoon.
"The old Guavaween has run its course," said Tom Keating, the chamber's president and chief executive.
The old model fenced off a good portion of Ybor City to create a wet zone where partiers, who paid an admission fee, could drink freely. But Keating said many merchants complained because the fence kept potential patrons away from their businesses and the food and alcohol sold inside the zone provided direct competition. Plus, Keating said, putting up that large a fence was expensive.
So last year, the chamber tried something new: The fence came down, there was no parade and Guavaween became a music festival. Keating said about 15,000 people attended, but it wasn't enough of a success.
So they are trying this, which appears intended to appease families and Guavaween celebrants.
The idea is to start midday with a street fair atmosphere: music, food, no gates. There will be a children's costume contest and other activities.
Then, after dark, the parade is slated to come back around 8 p.m., as well as the adult costume contest. The parade traditionally includes daring, skimpy outfits; of those in it and those watching. That aspect is likely to continue.
"I can't guarantee their behavior," Keating said.
The event previously included activities for families in the daytime, but Keating said there was always a definite barrier between day activities and night activities. This new plan has them flowing together, though the parade might not be family friendly. It's up to families whether they want to stay and watch.
"People are going to have to monitor themselves," he said.
There is no wet zone in the proposed plans, though that could change depending on what the community wants, said Marc Hamburg, chair of the Guavaween 2013 Committee.
"We are really trying to make an event that both the community and Krewes, the merchants, the chamber — that everybody enjoys," Hamburg said. "We are experimenting a little bit with the event but the end result, I think, is going to be very positive."
David Audet was involved in the beginning of Guavaween, which was called the Artists and Writers Ball, where they made fun of the Mardi Gras atmosphere of Gasparilla.
"It was in loving fun of a rather insane celebration," Audet said. "It was very much a people's parade. It wasn't very commercial."
He hated the fence that corralled the party for years and the commercialism that exploded. He believes the new plan is a good one.
"The fence is what destroyed it," he said.
Goldberg, though, is one Ybor business owner and former Guavaween patron who wants the fence back.
"It's absolutely a shame that they messed with it and completely screwed it up," he said.
Times researcher Natalie Watson contributed to this story. Erin Sullivan can be reached at [email protected] or (813) 226-3405.