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Knights of Sant'Yago parade changes route

YBOR CITY — For decades, the Knights of Sant'Yago Illuminated Knight Parade rolled up Seventh Avenue and ended at 22nd Street, in front of the Columbia Restaurant.

The restaurant's owner, the late Cesar Gonzmart, was a founder of the Krewe of the Knights of Sant'Yago, and his restaurant served as its unofficial headquarters.

No more.

Last February, the Gonzmart family and the krewe had a falling out and Columbia owners Richard and Casey Gonzmart resigned. The brothers, both former Sant'Yago kings, quit in protest over the club's attitude toward lewdness during the Gasparilla invasion.

It now appears the krewe and the Gonzmarts have parted ways literally as well as figuratively.

The route of the upcoming Feb. 14 Sant'Yago Knight Parade goes up 7th Avenue as usual, until it gets a block shy of the Columbia. Then the 120 floats and bands will veer north along 20th Street, and west down Palm Avenue, ending at the Cuban Club, 10 blocks away from their old Columbia hangout.

Detouring from the Columbia restaurant had nothing do to with the resignations of the Gonzmart brothers, said John Madiedo Jr., baron (director) of the private men's club that sponsors the annual parade

"We've settled our differences,'' he said. "We have a cordial, open relationship. Time heals all wounds.''

The purpose of the change, he said, is to separate family from frenzy, silly from raunchy, in the event.

"We want to be more sensitive to viewers' preferences,'' said Madiedo.

Instead of assembling downtown, the floats will line up along Nebraska Avenue and go straight out 7th Avenue. That "eliminates a big void on Nuccio Parkway where there was no housing and no seats,'' Madiedo said.

Also, Palm Avenue from 20th to 15th Street will become the family-friendly stretch of the parade.

And the floats will disband near the Cuban Club, 2010 N Avenida Republica de Cuba, where the krewe will host its first ever after-parade party.

"We've looped and encapsulated the event,'' Madiedo said, to "pay homage" to the group's Latin heritage and three historic buildings: Centro Asturiano, the Italian Club and the Cuban Club.

The new logistics suit city officials who oversee security and traffic flow, said parade chair and vice baron Mark Valenti. Also several female krewes expressed worries about insufficient lighting when debarking beyond 22nd Street, Valenti said.

No one asked his opinion, but Richard Gonzmart says the switch works to his benefit.

"I'm not sure why they changed it,'' he said, "but it's Valentine's Day and we'll have over 1,000 reservations. I want to thank them for leaving 21st and 22nd open for traffic. (Having) Seventh Avenue open in front of the Columbia gives our diners access and parking.

"Everyone thinks the parade helps,'' he said, "but it really hurts our business."

Also new this year: Private and corporate tents can be reserved at $3,000 to $5,000 along Seventh Avenue between 14th and 15th streets. Catering is available, similar to the Gasparilla day parade.

Sant'Yago's after-party, Knight at the Cuban Club, will feature national entertainers, hors d'oeuvres and full-service bar. The festivities will be held indoors and outdoors, and are open to the public. Tickets are $39 for general admission and $69 for VIP privilege at cubanclub.thundertix.com.

For more information, visit knightparade.com.

Amy Scherzer can be reached at ascherzer@sptimes.com or (813) 226-3332.

Knights of Sant'Yago parade changes route 12/16/08 [Last modified: Wednesday, December 17, 2008 12:18pm]
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