Ybor City’s Annual Halloween Festival
Guavaween was an annual Halloween festival in Ybor City that was extraordinarily popular for more than a decade. The first Guavaween was held in 1985. It was started by the Ybor City chamber of Commerce as a fundraiser to help the Tampa Playmakers, who were a local drama company.
An advertisement that was mailed to homes billed it as “A zany Halloween celebration of Ybor City: cultural center of the big Guava, America’s next great fruit.” Some of the festivities in the early years included: the Junior Guava Gambit children’s party, the Mama Guava stumble parade, and the Guava grunt and Guava growl costume balls. An especially popular event was the casket race, which involved teams running through an obstacle course carrying a coffin filled with fake blood. Whichever team spilled the least amount of blood was declared the winner.
The festival spread along 7th Avenue through the heart of Ybor City. There were food and beverage stands available, in addition to musical performances on nine different stages and screenings of old horror films. There were also awards for the best costume and the craziest costume.
By 1989, when Guavaween generated $100,000, it was getting quite popular. The event was also increasingly difficult to control. In 1990 there were 250,000 people in attendance and the police had to step in to manage the crowds. They arrested ninety minors for underage drinking, ten adults foe selling alcohol to minors, and thirteen people for disorderly conduct. There were also twenty-four people taken to the hospital for minor injuries. One man was shot in back while he was walking back to his car. The next year, the police added additional security and enclosed the area with a fence. This did not work, and more people were arrested. Despite these instances Guavaween remained popular throughout the 1990s.
In the 2000s things began to change. The event still drew large crowds. However, the city decided to implement dress code for costumes due to many risqué costumes in the past. The cost of the event also increased, with ticket prices going from $4 to $17. In 2009 only 15,000 people attended. In 2012 the Mama Guava Stumble Parade made its final run. The final Guavaween was held in 2017. While it declined in popularity, many people still have fond memories of this believed Halloween Tradition.