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YouTube videos make visual argument for Gasparilla's critics in Tampa

TAMPA — A woman squats next to a truck, her blue jeans at her ankles. Another flashes her breasts while bobbing in the bay. A man gets cursed and lunged at while preaching over his megaphone. Another tries to cut in line at a portable toilet.

If you didn't see it at Gasparilla, don't worry. All of these scenes are on YouTube from the more than 100 videos uploaded in the past week. (And — just a warning — many of them are not safe for work.)

The videos ensure that moments some would rather forget, or couldn't remember anyway, would be immortalized and distributed around the world.

The scenes aren't all bad. Videos showing friends, the flotilla or the parade floats are for all ages.

But others, like one that shows a fight erupting in the middle of crowded Bayshore Boulevard, show a dark side of the celebration that some Tampa residents have been trying to expose.

Darrell Stefany, president of EventFest, the parade's organizers, could not be reached for comment. He previously has said the city and parade officials take seriously the concerns of neighbors.

The parade continues to be a family event, he said, and coarse behavior by some in the crowd is a reflection of changes in the larger society, not something peculiar to Gasparilla.

Homeowners, like those in the Historic Hyde Park Neighborhood Association, took to the streets Saturday with cameras and questions, hoping to compile enough evidence to prove to the city that their complaints of sex, drugs and public urination were big concerns.

The civic group and Bayshore area neighbors will be at a town hall meeting with city officials and parade organizers on March 18, 6:30 p.m. at the Florida Aquarium to discuss the situation.

YouTube may be their biggest ally. Posting YouTube videos of the raucous event is nothing new.

The oldest Gasparilla video on the site is from 2003, and the most popular is a 2007 clip of a passed-out girl in a wagon.

It has been viewed 35,000 times.

Times staff writer Alexandra Zayas contributed to this report. Drew Harwell can be reached at (813) 226-3386 or dharwell@sptimes.com.

YouTube videos make visual argument for Gasparilla's critics in Tampa 02/10/09 [Last modified: Tuesday, February 10, 2009 11:18pm]
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