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The ball flies past players’ heads at more than 150 M.P.H. before striking the front wall with a hard click–and speeding back toward them. In an instant it’s trapped in a basket attached to a man’s hand like a wicker hook. He whips his body forward, flicking the basket and propelling the ball back toward the wall–again at blurring speeds–while another player positions himself for a chance at it when it comes back. The noisy exchanges continue until points are scored, teams savor victory and crowds cheer in the stands. This is Jai-Alai!
If Ybor City’s backbone was its cigar factories, Cuscaden Park was its heart. The park still exists today, though a faint shadow of its former self. Its 500 seat capacity grandstand was demolished and its baseball fields gave way to soccer fields. To drive past the park today, some would never know that this field was once Ybor City’s Field of Dreams.
Skepticism was enormous despite Henry Flagler's reputation as the man whose railway, steamship, and hotel ventures had brought much of Florida from backwoods to modernity in a few busy decades.
From the founding of the Florida territory in the late 1940s to the later decades, when the familiar voice of longtime announcer Gordon Solie would convey the ringside drama to television audiences every Saturday, professional wrestling enjoyed an enthusiastic- if inelegant- popularity in Florida. Thousands would crowd venues such as the Miami Convention Center, the Lakeland Civic Center, the Jacksonville Coliseum and dozens of others.
Many famous artists have graced the stage at the Springs Theater. Jennifer Lopez rented the space for private rehearsals when she performed at Super Bowl XXXV in Tampa. Robert Smith of rock band The Cure recorded vocal tracks there. Swing revivalists Big Bad Voodoo Daddy, Grammy Award winner Bobby McFerrin, and the Florida Orchestra have all recorded compositions at the theater.
January 10, 2011 marked the 150th anniversary of Florida’s secession from the United States. Florida followed South Carolina and Mississippi and was the third state to leave the Union. The Civil War began three months later when Southern forces fired on Union-held Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbor. The opening shots of the war were almost directed at Fort Pickens in Pensacola Harbor, but President Abraham Lincoln decided to resupply the South Carolina fort instead.
“To Cubans is owed the credit for the founding of Ybor City, where its residents produce wealth that is enjoyed by the very people who look upon Cubans with contempt…This state of Florida, previously impoverished, is today one of the most prosperous in the country, thanks to the development of Cuban cigars brought by the very people upon whom scorn is heaped.” -Cuba September 9, 1893
In April 1980, the flood of Cuban refugees continued for several weeks from the port of Mariel. Cubans fled in a desperate flotilla, and Fidel Castro let them go. Family members in the United States suddenly saw hope for relatives still living under the Communist yoke. A desperate boatlift ensued, often undertaken by shrimp trawlers and fishing boats of questionable seaworthiness.
The tour will take you to old gambling palaces, street corners and alleys where some mobsters met their demise, and restaurants where wise guys like famed boss Santo Trafficante Jr. held court. Join us for this one-of-a-kind walk through Tampa’s most storied neighborhood. We guarantee you’ll never look at Ybor City the same way again. READ HERE FOR MORE TOUR INFORMATION
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Gene Holloway is alive and for the second time in his colorful life people are shocked to hear it. Yes, that Gene Holloway. The man who at the height of his popularity and seemingly at the height of his riches was accused of torching his home and then "disappeared" in the Gulf of Mexico one night when he fell off his boat in 1981. Yes, that Gene Holloway–the man who was pronounced dead, only to be arrested for supposedly dealing drugs in Canada a few months later!
During the investigation of Velasco’s murder, a “payoff list” was discovered that named elected officials, law enforcement officers and others who allegedly took money from Velasco in return for protection and favors. This list thrust Tampa’s crooked ways into the national spotlight.
However, in February 1949, a grand jury declared the payoff list to be a fraud, made up to tarnish the good names of public officials. The names on the list were never exposed to the public and the list was then locked away so that no one would ever see it…until now. READ MORE