TAMPA, Fla. — The streets of Ybor will come to life this weekend, illuminated with parade floats and music for the 47th Sant’ Yago Knight Parade.
The parade was canceled last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but this year, the Krewe Sant’ Yago is hoping to welcome tens of thousands of people back to Ybor in Tampa.
“It brings a spotlight. It is the largest illuminator parade in the southeastern United States,” said Parade co-chairman and long-time Krewe Sant’ Yago member Ray Favata.
“My grandfather is one of the five founders of the krewe. My father was one of the 75 charter members. The first time I was involved was in the second grade that the crew put on in 1975 as a page at age six,” Favata added.
The krewe’s event is a spin-off of Tampa’s nationally recognized Gasparilla parade, but this one emphasizes diversity and Latin culture in Ybor city.
“We were actually started because Gasparilla way back when, nothing at Gasparilla, this was just the times they didn't allow great diversity in Gasparilla and so we were founded because they wanted to perpetuate that Latin heritage,” Favata exclaimed.
Founded in 1885, Ybor was once known as the cigar capital of the world, attracting immigrants from Cuba, Spain, Italy and Germany.
It struggled after the Great Depression, but nightclubs sprouted a new entertainment district in the 80’s and 90’s, and now, more businesses are moving in as well.
“There's a lot more workforce and Ybor Ashley furniture has brought a lot of employees their world headquarters is now in Ybor, there's some workspaces that have really developed so you're seeing a lot more people here and during the day,” said Chip Williams a board member with the Ybor City Development Corporation.
While Ybor has also been infamous for high crime rates, Williams said they’ve been working diligently to make it a family-friendly place to play and live.
“It's always going to have the nighttime you know, the entertainment feel to it. There's always going to be the bars and restaurants now we're really seeing some of the residents grow,” he said, “Professionals, the architects… the engineers, the lawyers and things like that… that are really coming to the area and seeing everything as offer. It’s a walkable district you know, you can live walk play very easily, and it's just getting better and better.”
The Knight parade is one of more than 100 annual events to showcase the historic city. Williams said there hasn’t been an arrest at the parade in seven years.
The parade has averaged about 130 participants for the last 5 years, and it’s only gotten easier to travel in and out with the city’s trolley service now free.
“It brings in a good amount of public that comes in early in the day stays through the parade, then stays afterward. So it's a good economic boost…it's just a great event for the city,” said Ken Willis, parade chairman this year and Krewe Sant’ Yago member.
The parade is Saturday, February 12. It marches down 7th street in Ybor starting around 7 in the evening. It will feature various krewes, local businesses, school marching bands, Jerry Springer, and much more. It’s free, but you can also purchase bleacher seats on the Krewe’s website.