Teddy and Paddy Party in Ybor

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Theodore Roosevelt slept here.The offices of the Weekly Planet are housed in the El Pasaje building, originally a hotel, which lists among its early guests Cuban nationalist poet Jose Marti, British statesman Winston Churchill and Teddy Roosevelt, whose first visit to Tampa came in the spring of 1898, when he camped near the port with regiments of 30,000 soldiers, prior to launching for Cuba to protect U.S. interests in the Spanish-American War.

It is this brief official stay of Roosevelt's — coupled with the heroic image he fostered of himself and his men — that inspired the formation of Bay area service and social club The Rough Riders, named after the former Colonel's disorderly cavalry, which included sportsmen, ex-cowboys and outlaws.

Well-known Tampa businessman Charlie Spicola formed the club in 1978, gathering folks who shared a fondness for history. Spicola's personal dedication to education finds him donating school materials and even substitute teaching last year at the age of 64. The Rough Riders participate in various civic and service projects (regularly visiting sick and injured kids at area hospitals and having adopted Roosevelt Elementary) but the 500-member group also has some fun, participating in parades throughout the country.

The Rough Riders' own annual St. Patrick's Night Parade takes place from 8 p.m. to who knows when in Ybor City on Saturday, March 13.

The event is essentially a block party as revelers take to the Seventh Avenue strip to swill green beer and perhaps butcher an Irish drinking song or two. The Rough Riders and other participating clubs and krewes take their floats out for a spin and shower whatever crowd amasses with souvenirs (cheap plastic beads).

It's unclear what the parade has to do with St. Patrick, but the ordained priest probably would have approved.

As a missionary ministering to the Irish, St. Patrick sought to convert Pagans to Christianity by incorporating their traditional rituals into his lessons. He included bonfires in the celebration of Easter and added the powerful Irish symbol of the sun to the Christian cross, creating the Celtic cross, so that worship of the figure would not seem so foreign.

Could St. Patrick be working now in the Lord's mysterious way to convert modern pagans by incorporating contemporary rites like said night parade in what is essentially a celebration of Irish Catholicism?

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