Shriners Invade Tampa, Ybor Parade Steps Off Wednesday
If you've noticed people wearing maroon or white fezzes walking around downtown Tampa this week, that's because the Shriners are back in town.
For the third time in six years, the Ancient Egyptian Arabic Order Noble Mystic Shrine - also known as Prince Hall Shriners - is holding its Imperial Session in Tampa. An estimated 25,000 members of the primarily African-American order, along with members of their women's auxiliary, known as the Daughters of Isis (or Imperial Court), are visiting the area.
The group's parent organization, Shriners International, is headquartered in Tampa.
Hillsborough County Commissioner Les Miller, who's also a Shriner, says the Imperial Session is expected to have a $30 million economic impact on the Tampa Bay area.
The session has been going on since last weekend at the Tampa Convention Center and other downtown sites, with a youth forum, talent show and drill, color guard and band competitions. In addition, the Shriners have been talking about the many charitable efforts the organization supports.
"We discuss everything from our charitable initiatives that we have, which are national diabetes (the American Diabetes Association), the Saint Jude Children's Medical Center, student aid, mentoring for our young men and women, the whole works," Miller said.
The event will peak with a book bag giveaway at Foster Elementary School Wednesday morning and the annual street parade in Ybor City Wednesday evening.
"The nobles will be wearing their maroon fezzes, the Daughters will be wearing their white," Miller said. "You will see the small cars, the motorcycles, you will see the horses, you'll see floats. Bring your lawn chairs and your umbrellas - it's going to be hot!"
The parade starts at 6 p.m. at Seventh Avenue and Nick Nuccio Parkway before heading east on Seventh.
For a look at what roads will be closed in downtown Tampa, click here.
The Shriners wrap up their visit Thursday with an afternoon reception at the Tampa Marriott Waterside and Imperial Ball that night at the Hilton Tampa downtown.