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Another krewe grounds parade after controversy

They don't share a name or a single member, but the controversy surrounding one exclusive Krewe has tainted another. The Krewe of the Knights of Sant' Yago has announced that it was forced to cancel its traditional night parade through Ybor City because of concerns surrounding another krewe, Ye Mystic Krewe of Gasparilla.

Sant' Yago Krewe Baron Luis Menendez said his group voted last week to cancel the parade because several bands and floats refused to participate in the 40th annual parade through Ybor City. The parade had been scheduled for Feb. 2.

Menendez said the controversy surrounding Ye Mystic Krewe, which abruptly called off its annual Gasparilla parade last month rather than admit blacks and women as demanded by a coalition of black groups, affected his group. The Gasparilla parade was to be held Jan. 26, the day before Super Bowl XXV.

"The decision was pretty much made for us," Menendez said.

Soon after Gasparilla canceled its parade, other local groups starting withdrawing from the Sant' Yago night parade, Menendez said. He said many people thought the Sant' Yago night parade was connected to or sponsored by the krewe of Gasparilla.

Unlike that krewe, Sant' Yago primarily is composed of minority members. However, both clubs refuse to admit women.

The Gasparilla krewe withdrew all nine of its floats because "they didn't really want to be involved in anything this year," Menendez said.

In addition, three bands from local public schools decided against marching in the night parade, Menendez said. The schools are Ben Hill and Pierce junior high schools and Robinson High School. Officials from the schools could not be reached for comment Monday.

Also, two other social groups, the krewes of Venus and Neptune, refused to participate this year, Menendez said. Last year, the Sant' Yago parade had about 41 floats and 10 bands. He said his parade did not have enough participation to carry on this year.

"We're very disappointed," Menendez said. "Hopefully attitudes will be different next year. Hopefully people will be calmer so we can carry on with tradition."

Henry Carley, president of the Tampa NAACP and co-chairman of the committee planning a parade to replace Gasparilla, said this is not the year for events sponsored by any krewe.

"There doesn't appear that there is a lot of interest in that type of parade anymore," Carley said. "It was a pin put in everybody's balloon when the krewe (of Gasparilla) canceled their parade."

"It was really not worth having a parade," said Lisa Reitan, director of the Ybor City Chamber of Commerce.

She said the cancellation will hurt Ybor City businesses and charities that used the parade as a way to make money. The Italian Club, for example, was set to take in $5,000 from seat sales along the parade route to help pay for the club's daily expenses.

Reitan said the chamber will expand its Fiesta Day activities to help local groups make some money. She said the all-day party, which also was scheduled for Feb. 2, will be moved to Feb. 16 and will be expanded to include some night events.

Even though the night parade has been canceled, other mid-winter events continue to flourish in Tampa.

Woody Peek, director of tourism of Tampa Hillsborough Convention and Visitors Association, said the cancellation of Gasparilla and the night parade has not immediately affected tourism.

He said many tour groups that had booked reservations for a day trip to see the Gasparilla parade Jan. 26 still are planning to come to a substitute parade that day. He also said the Fiesta Day celebration will attract visitors.

Other Tampa traditions will carry on this year even though they bear the Gasparilla name.

Organizers of the Gasparilla Distance Classic, the Gasparilla Sidewalk Art Festival and the Children's Gasparilla Parade said those events have not been threatened by controversy. All still are scheduled for February or early March. None are associated with Ye Mystic Krewe of Gasparilla.

"We are totally separate," said Classic director Jeanette Park. "The only thing we share is a name."

Park said she hoped the Gasparilla controversy would not affect the race.

"The publicity has not been great,' she said. "The public doesn't really seem to differentiate between the krewe and the other events."