Ybor City is a grand place. Part historical artifact from a more romanticized time, part party destination and all holiday spirit complete with street parades and fantastic festivals. The man behind the holiday magic of Ybor is Mathieu Stanoch.
“We got started seven years ago with the Historic Holiday Spirit by decorating the streets of Ybor,” Stanoch recalls. “Now, with the support of GaYbor District, Centro Ybor and the Ybor City Development Corporation, we have the parade and the snow, it’s beautiful.”
Snow on 7th has become an event not just for the people of Ybor, but for the entire Tampa Bay area. Dozens of giant snow machines, a full parade down 7th Ave, a tree lighting ceremony and more hot chocolate and candy canes than the North Pole.
“Ybor is one of only two nationally accredited historical sites in the state,” Stanoch says. “Every major historical landmark district – Charleston, St. Augustine, Savannah – have these amazing holiday celebrations, and we are not to be outdone here.”
The success of Snow on 7th led Stanoch to be able to have the very first March of the Pumpkin King Halloween parade this year.
“We want to bring back the traditions that once made us the cool place in Tampa,” Stanoch says. “This year we were able to execute the Halloween parade and next year we are bringing back another parade, ‘The March of the Flags,’ with Fiesta Days, which will honor the many heritages of Ybor City. That is something that dates back to the 1930s.”
Stanoch is passionate about making Ybor a place that marvels and entertains the entire family, free from fear and harassment, which is why in August, when he experienced a verbal attack from visiting Shriners in town for a conference, he knew he had to do something.
“It rocked my world a lot,” Stanoch says. “I grew up in an art district with an open and accepting family, so I had never been in a situation like that with bigotry before.”
While most in a situation like this would take to social media to vent and get angry, Stanoch took a different approach. He went out of his way to make sure this wouldn’t happen to anyone else.
“It made me step up my game to make sure that this kind of behavior would not be tolerated, not here in Ybor,” Stanoch says. “We always stand strong and firm for each other here, and if an event is coming into Ybor they need to understand that this is our district, this is our home.”
Stanoch went to the head of the Shriners and not only got an apology from the individual who used homophobic language, but from the entire organization as well.
“[The Shriners] recognized the LGBTQ community internationally for the first time in their records,” Stanoch says. “That was amazing, to have it go from one of the low points in my year to one of the high points within 48 hours. Now that’s remarkable.”
Gallery photos by Jake Stevens.