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MONSTER BASHES // Back from the grave, it's Guavaween

In the sea of pointy-hatted witches and red-stockinged devils that sloshed through the streets of Ybor City on Saturday night for Guavaween, your best hope to get noticed _ without getting arrested _ was a truly original costume.

"I thought this up about two years ago, but I was always too lazy to do it," said Frank Moradiellos, 29, as he stood outside his father's dry cleaning store on 15th Street cloaked in a black robe strewn with chicken bones, cigarette boxes and used toilet paper rolls.

The sign that hung from his neck: "White Trash."

A block away, a 31-year-old man wearing pajamas and a plastic elephant trunk strapped to his face watched the Mama Guava Stumble Parade lurch down Seventh Avenue, kicking off Ybor's annual Halloween street party.

"You mean you don't know what I am?" asked Rob Schweitzer of Tampa. "It's a Groucho Marx thing. I shot an elephant in my pajamas _ how it got in my pajamas I'll never know."

Ohhhhh.

Come with a group? Then multiply the effort.

Mary and Robert Crowder of Lakeland came dressed as large, light-blue pillows. Their friends Bonnie and Perry Evans completed the set _ Bonnie as mattress and Perry as box springs.

"Only thing is, I can't drink in this thing," Bonnie said.

The mattress set joined the hordes that spilled from shuttle buses at the festival's Seventh Avenue entrance. More routes were added this year to accommodate the growing crowds, which organizers hoped would top last year's 60,000.

Steve Nedik and Royse Bassham, members of the band Knucklehead, figured the shuttle might be their only hope of making their 9:30 p.m. show at Frankie's Patio Bar and Grill.

"We researched it as best we could and this was the only way," Nedik said.

For the first time in two years, Guavaween was a dry event, at least as far as the weather was concerned. Light rains blew through about 1:30 p.m., but skies were clear when vendors began their calls of "Cold beer! Get it here!" about 5 p.m.

Despite the collective blood-alcohol level of the crowds in recent years, Guavaween gatherings have been calm, police say.

The same appeared to hold true this year, with only one arrest for marijuana possession by mid-evening.

"It's real peaceful at this point," said Tampa police Capt. K. C. Newcomb, one of more than 150 police and Florida Marine Patrol officers and Hillsborough sheriff's deputies patrolling the fenced-in area bordered by Palm and Sixth avenues and 13th and 20th streets.

Though you couldn't tell it from the boisterous crowds that packed Seventh Avenue on Saturday night, Guavaween came close to extinction just last year.

Only months before the 1994 event, the Ybor City Chamber of Commerce made a gloomy announcement: After nine years, it could no longer pay for the fete itself. The cost of security and cleanup, coupled with a record $41,039 debt from a rained-out Guavaween '93, had the group too spooked to take such a risk again.

For the first time since it began in 1984 as the less crowded and chaotic brainchild of a small colony of Ybor City writers and artists, Guavaween appeared headed for an early grave. In an effort to save the festival, the chamber hired CC Event Productions _ a professional production company that added afternoon rides and games for the kids and a $5 admission charge _ and the chamber turned its attention to promoting Guavaween throughout the state.

With more than 60,000 costumed revelers and only a spat of showers, the chamber climbed out of debt after last year's bash and CC Event Productions almost broke even, said Cookie Ellis, chamber administrator.

Official numbers aren't in yet, but CC Event officials hoped to fare better this year, banking on drier weather and a predicted crowd of 100,000.

Organizers expected revelers to begin heading home between 2 and 3 a.m. Sunday _ or 3 or 4 a.m., depending on when they set their watches back to accommodate the end of Daylight Savings Time.

_ Times correspondent Charles Hoskinson contributed to this story.

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