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  1. Arts & Entertainment

WWE’s Titus O’Neil is the Gasparilla Knight Parade grand marshal

Fan favorite Jerry Springer will also attend the Ybor City tradition in February.
Titus O'Neil will serve as grand marshal of the Krewe of the Knights of Sant' Yago Illuminated Knight Parade in Ybor City on Feb. 8. [Tampa Bay Times (2019)]

WWE star Titus O’Neil has been chosen as the grand marshal of the Krewe of the Knights of Sant’ Yago Illuminated Knight Parade coming to Ybor City in February, the krewe announced Tuesday.

Thaddeus Michael Bullard, a.k.a. wrestler O’Neil, should be easy to spot in the crowd since he’s billed at 6 feet 6 and 270 pounds. In addition, WMOR-TV personality Jerry Springer will return as a special guest of the Knight Parade with fan meet and greets.

“I’m honored to be asked to fill this role for one of the Tampa Bay area’s best events of the year,” O’Neil said in a news release. “Tampa is my home, and the Knight Parade is one of Tampa’s signature events, and has been for many decades. This event not only shows the diversity and pride of Tampa Bay, but also the significant work and impact of the Krewe of Sant’ Yago in our community leading up to the Knight Parade.”

The Krewe of the Knights of Sant' Yago Illuminated Knight Parade has been a part of Tampa's Gasparilla season since 1974. [LUIS SANTANA | Tampa Bay Times (2015)]

The parade has been part of Tampa’s Gasparilla season since 1974 and is considered the largest of its kind in the Southeast. It will begin at 7 p.m. Feb. 8 with illuminated floats rolling down Seventh Avenue in Ybor City. The floats are accompanied by dozens of marching bands, local dignitaries and thousands of participants who will throw scores of beads to an expected 100,000 spectators.

Proceeds benefit the krewe’s Education Foundation, which has provided more than $2.5 million in higher education scholarships since it was established in 1994.

Jerry Springer will appear at the Krewe of the Knights of Sant' Yago Illuminated Knight Parade on Feb. 8 in Ybor City.

“Titus O’Neil’s athletic success has paved the way for his generous philanthropy, and he has tremendous enthusiasm for empowering and encouraging local youth — the next generation of Tampa leaders,” said Jimmy Piloto, Krewe of the Knights of Sant’ Yago member and 2020 parade chairman, in the release. “Serving as Grand Marshal is the perfect way to celebrate his work in building a stronger community.”

O’Neil will also be one of the stars featured in WWE WrestleMania 36, which takes place in Tampa in April. As a philanthropist, he has had a particular focus on Hillsborough County public schools and most recently targeted families at Sligh Middle Magnet School and in the East Tampa area. Through his efforts and the Bullard Family Foundation, which provides families and children with programs and resources, O’Neil has helped raise millions for local and national charities.

For more information on the 2020 Knight Parade, visit www.knightparade.com.

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