Claims that Gasparilla rings up a $43-million annual economic impact don't seem so far-fetched when you start to add up the elaborate entertaining expenses.
Dozens of krewes started partying Jan. 24 at Gaspar's Grotto, hosted by the South Tampa Chamber of Commerce's Krewe of Seville, and at Jackson's Bistro on Harbour Island, organized by the Krewe of F Troop.
On Gasparilla Eve, Rough Riders drank with 425 buddies at the downtown Tampa Embassy Suites.
Ye Mystic Krewe kicked off when 1,500 colorful rogues thundered into the Captain's Ball at the Tampa Yacht Club on Jan. 24. Besides Capt. Preston Farrior, their official greeter was Pete Peterson, a dining room waiter for 21 years who comes out of retirement for Gasparilla.
Saturday morning, Ye Mystic Krewe legacies and offspring returned to breakfast at the yacht club, a century-old ritual that required 50 gallons of Bloody Marys and 85 gallons of milk punch. Feeding 2,000 people had the cooks flipping eggs with shovels.
Meanwhile, landlubbers along Bayshore Boulevard chose flight or fight: Leave town and post security guards or invite guests to brave the mobs and hire guards to let them in.
Betsy and Steve Chambers stayed to turn their home into a treasure chest of fun for 500 friends with thousands of beads, lifesize pirate statues and a DJ. David and Barbara Varlotta hosted a smaller gathering; Martin and Ruth Silbiger's was a family affair.
Margo and Gary Harrod locked up their home, but reserved one of EventMakers' 48 corporate tents where they announced the birth of their third grandchild, Lee Harrod. Down the block, in Nancy Turner's tent, guests celebrated her birthday wearing tags that said Let's Drink Whiskey Cause Nancy's 60.
Bankers, builders and lawyers book corporate tents priced at $15,000 and up and entertain royally. Capt. Morgan Original Spiced Rum provided foam pirate hats. Tamco offered orange boas. Quality of Life/Almost Family hired Rene Zarate to roll cigars as the floats rolled by.
Who had the driest tent?
City of Tampa, the only alcohol-free party, saved by the Paper Stanleys band.
And the biggest?
Sunset Salsa, where 850 Sunset and Beach Park neighbors continued a 20-year tradition of chipping in ($85 each) to pay for a blocklong tent with a 40-foot bar, 16 Port-o-lets, a live band and lots of salsa.
Got gossip?E-mail Amy Scherzer at email@example.com or call 226-3332. Party online:For more party pictures, visit hillsborough.tampabay.com.
Sunday: Ebony Fashion Fair, Glam Odyssey: A Fashion Journey into Bliss and Beyond benefits Derrick Brooks Charities Youth Auxiliary; 3 p.m.; Tampa Theatre; $30; 238-8117.
Thursday: Roses in Winter gala Celebrating Memories & Hope benefits Byrd Alzheimer's Center & Research Institute; guest speaker Phyllis George; 6:30 p.m.; Morsani Hall, Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center; $200; 319-4127.
Feb. 7: Wine Is For Lovers, Nightlife Napa Valley winetasting benefits Abilities Foundation; 9 p.m.; International Plaza Bay Street; $35 in advance; $45 at door; (727) 538-7370, ext. 349.