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Another surrender to the Krewe?

Fifty-two percent of the people inside the city limits of Tampa are female. That's about the going rate.

For all of Hillsborough County, the figure is 51 percent. For Pinellas, it's 53 percent.

The reasons women outnumber men are too complicated to get into. The bottom line is that if the majority always ruled, so would women.

If you were playing the odds, betting, let's say, on a bunch of blue and pink marbles drawn from a big glass jar, you would bet that the color with 52 percent of the marbles would pop up 52 percent of the time.

You would expect just over half of all bank presidents to be women. Corporate executives. Supervisors. What the heck, even newspaper editors.

But they aren't. For a lot of reasons, few of them good, women make up only a small percentage of the people who call the shots in our society. A growing percentage, but still small.

This brings us to Ye Mystic Krewe of Gasparilla, one of Tampa's most prominent social institutions, and (until this year) the backbone of the annual Gasparilla holiday, a sort of mini-Mardi Gras.

The Krewe itself calls no shots. But it is a club for shot-callers. Its 700 or so members include some of the most powerful men in Tampa.


Until this year, thousands of people would gather each February to cheer as the Krewe, dressed as pirates, sailed up to the mouth of the Hillsborough River and had the mayor "surrender" the city.

(Some skeptics occasionally asked why the mayor had to surrender Tampa to people who already owned it. They just weren't into the spirit of things.)

That changed last year. As Super Bowl XXV approached, the National Football League raised the issue of the Krewe's all-white membership. Only a couple of decades late, others started asking the same question.

Rather than admit blacks immediately, the Krewe canceled its annual Gasparilla parade. History has since been made and two black members have been admitted, a baby step, although hardly evidence of complete rehabilitation.

Now Tampa is planning a new, healing, Tampa Bay Gasparilla Festival for February 1992. It's supposed to replace Bamboleo, the hastily prepared, fine-but-not-great celebration that filled in for Gasparilla this year.

The Krewe of Gasparilla will return to the fold. The pirates will march once again, although details are yet to come.

And once again, somebody is asking questions.

This time it's the National Organization for Women (NOW). Local NOW President Carolyn Waldron this week called for women to be admitted to the Krewe, saying: "Now that the doors have opened with the inclusion of blacks, we can't let this opportunity go by."

She has not been met with applause.

She's been met with blank stares, mostly.

The Tampa hierarchy promises that women will be an important part of Gasparilla and the parade.

Just not as Krewe members.

Even Mayor Sandy Freedman, who drew the line last year by refusing to let the city take part until the Krewe integrated, isn't pushing for further change.

"The fact is, they're moving in the right direction," says Freedman spokesman John Dunn. "You can't change everything overnight."

The mayor is satisfied the new festival will feature a lot of other events, Dunn said. The Krewe will no longer be the centerpiece.

"The Krewe was the whole focus," Dunn said of past years. "What's happening now is that the parade is just one element of a larger series of events, kind of our version of Mardi Gras.

"It's just one of the spokes on the wheel now."

Well, let's see what the festival committee comes up with before we're sure it's a spoke of the wheel, and not the hub.

Will the all-male Krewe "conquer" Tampa? Will the all-male Krewe have the mayor "surrender" the city? Will the all-male Krewe's parade still cost the taxpayers (of both genders) $30,000 to $40,000 for police and cleanup?

If the Krewe hadn't taken black members, would we still accept it as a spoke of the wheel? If not, then why is it unacceptable to exclude blacks, but acceptable to exclude women?

"If we were starting from scratch," the mayor said, "we would want to include everybody."

Isn't this as close to scratch as we're going to get?