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Ybor is set to light up for Gasparilla

And now a little Gasparilla for the common folk. Tampa's monthlong Mardi Gras-style bash continues today in the city's Latin quarter with a fiesta that attracts artists and peasants, feather-clad revelers and tie-dyed-toga wearers, flamenco dancers and zydeco bands.

"It's a people thing," said Harry Moradiello, president of the Krewe of the Knights of Sant 'Yago, Ybor City's answer to the exclusive Ye Mystic Krewe of Gasparilla.

At 10 a.m., just about the time runners in the 15-kilometer

Gasparilla Distance Classic are pounding across the finish line in downtown Tampa, Fiesta Day begins in Ybor City. The Gonzmart family, owners of the Columbia Restaurant, will serve free Spanish bean soup, cafe con leche and Cuban bread in the 1500 block of Seventh Avenue.

A five-block area on Seventh Avenue, Ybor City's main street, will be set aside to showcase Cajun, Spanish, Italian and Cuban cultures.

Cubans will serve their sandwiches, tamales and croquettes; Italians their pasta and pastries; and the Spanish their barbecue while the Cajuns throw a mini Mardi Gras. Fiesta Day ends at 5 p.m. On 18th Street, 115 exhibitors will offer their wares at the Sidewalk Arts and Crafts Show. The Swinging Satellites will pro- vide musical entertainment at the show, which runs from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Runners and anyone else who wants to relax are invited to a free "After the Race Party" at noon at Ybor Square.

As the sun sets, the evening will assume a funkier, if not outlandish, quality.

At 7 p.m., the Krewe of the Knights of Sant 'Yago's Illuminated Night Parade begins at the south end of Nick Nuccio Parkway, heads north and then east on Seventh Avenue, ending at 23rd Street. More than 40 floats and nine marching bands will take part in the parade - 20 more groups than last year, Moradiello said.

Afterward, those who want to stay can choose from several parties, some of them free.

King Richard - in real life Richard Gonzmart, king of the Krewe of the Knights of Sant 'Yago - will throw a free block party, King Richard's Mad Bash, in the Columbia Restaurant parking lot at Seventh Avenue and 22nd Street.

The Rough Riders and Ybor Square, with the help of radio station WFLZ-FM, the "Power Pig," will sponsor a street dance at Ybor Square. Rock 'n' roll will be served up by Sage.

The traditional Artists and Writers Ball has given way to the Beggar's Ball, a costumed event at the Cuban Club. Ballgoers are encouraged to interpret the event's theme - "Nero's Neon Narcosis - by flaunting tie-dyed togas or fluorescent attire. Tickets are $15.

"Your Favorite Past Life" is the theme of the Mardi Gras Street Ball at El Pasaje Plaza, where feathered and glittery revelers will dance to two South Louisiana zydeco bands. Tickets are $12.

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