Behind the scenes at Gasparilla 2012 | News
TAMPA, Fla. -- Hours before spectators squeeze in along the parade route at Gasparilla, members of Ye Krewe of Italia are tucked inside a garage.
In fact, they've been there nearly every day for the last month, building columns and ensuring their float fully embodies the Krewe's theme of Ancient Rome.
At 7:30 a.m. on the morning of the parade, several of the members meet up for final touches and a safety check. Years of experience have taught them what to look for. A few years ago, the lugnuts on the front tires of the float broke off, actually making the tires fall off. This year, the tires are brand new and the pressure is double checked before their mission begins.
They check on lights, food, even the bar and bathroom both built into the float before being towed away to the staging area.
Meanwhile, in Ybor City, several other members are getting dressed in elaborate Roman costumes, putting on makeup and preparing for a long day ahead.
"Suck it in," one woman jokes as she ties another woman's dress.
Once they're done, they all board a school bus to join the float. Everyone hurries -- and then waits. That's because the Krewe is on float #82, so they know they're a while away from the beginning of the Gasparilla parade at Bayshore Blvd. and Bay to Bay.
But the staging area is a parade in itself. Krewes get to check out other costumes, dance to music blaring from each float, even share drinks with one another. Ye Krewe of Italia has plenty of delicious, homemade food to share, but there's something even more attention grabbing than the food.
They're everywhere, strewn over the sides of the float, attached to belts that people wear, piled in bags that are piled on top of one another. For many spectators, the variety of beads are the whole appeal of the parade and the Krewe wants to guarantee there's enough for everyone.
All floats are prohibited from tossing beads until they reach the official beginning of the parade at Bay to Bay. As the float inches closer, people begin grabbing piles and plan where to aim. The deafening sound of cheering from the crowd lets them know when to start throwing.
Even though Ye Krewe of Italia is on the 82nd float in line, the crowd is still screaming loudly with an energy that inspires the Krewe to throw beads, dance and, maybe later, take a nap.