TAMPA — For more than two decades, Ybor City’s Seventh Avenue has come alive with a St. Patrick’s Day parade, buzzing with floats, glittering beads and music. Not in 2024.
The group behind the annual parade — Tampa’s Rough Riders, a nonprofit organization dedicated to President Theodore Roosevelt and his cavalry — is opting to host the event downtown rather than in the historic Latin Quarter next year.
“The Rough Riders have expressed interest in making the parade a broader, family-friendly event coinciding with the River O’ Green for more than a year, and about a month ago agreed to give it a go,” said city communications director Adam Smith. “The precise route has not been finalized, but we’ll work with the Tampa Downtown Partnership and Tampa Police Department on logistical details.”
Smith said combining the parade with the annual dyeing of the Hillsborough River a bright shade of green should make the parade “a less costly and more vibrant family celebration for the community.”
The Rough Riders declined to comment Thursday, but secretary Rick Ceglio said more details would be available Friday. On the organization’s website, the date for the parade is listed as March 16.
The switch to downtown has some Ybor residents worried.
“Parades are special events that drive commerce and revenue to local businesses,” said Tom DeGeorge, owner of the live music venue Crowbar. Though the parade actually hurts his business with road closures, he sees its overall importance to Ybor. “The fact that this is going away, it makes you worried if we are going to lose other signature events.”
Settled in the late 1800s by Spanish, Cuban and Italian immigrants, the neighborhood has had many faces: a thriving community built on a fabric of cultures, the epicenter of Tampa’s cigar industry and a haven for local artists. These days Ybor is a popular spot to lunch and dine, for visitors to wander before the bar-and-club crowd settles in for the night.
“It’s a great parade, it’s a great location,” Joseph Citro, a Rough Riders member and former Tampa City Council member, said of the historic Ybor City route. He’d prefer it to stay put, he said, but added that the switch allows next year’s event to better fit in with other city St. Patrick’s Day festivities.
He added that the route is expected to follow that of the annual Santa Fest: along Madison Street from Morgan Street to Ashley Drive, turning north and ending at Ashley Drive and Cass Street.
The Rough Riders were formed in 1978 to commemorate and honor Roosevelt and the 1st U.S. Volunteer Cavalry Regiment, who sailed from Tampa to help liberate Cuba from Spain during the Spanish-American War in 1898. (Roosevelt would be elected president in 1900.)
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The organization maintains an Ybor clubhouse and 560 members, according to its website. The parade is among their hallmark events. Last year, Tampa Mayor Jane Castor and the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office led the procession, which featured more than 125 units, including 85 illuminated floats.
“I would miss not having it here,” former chairperson of the Ybor City Community Advisory Committee Chris Wojtowicz said when the Times informed him of the parade’s location change. “Though I would probably go downtown to watch it.”