A History Of
The Knights of Krewe of Cavaliers
The Knights of the Krewe of Cavaliers was originally formulated as a temporary organization. In 1984 Tampa’s “All Hallows Masquerade Ball” Hosts announced a hiatus for the long time annual affair. As a great fan of the party, Donald Severance devised an opportunity to fill the gap.
That summer he approached several friends who also had an interest in a replacement Halloween event for that year. After preliminary planning, it became apparent more time was needed to prepare a party of this magnitude. The group decided to hold a masquerade event in February. The event would coincide not only with the popular Mardi Gras season but, more importantly, the main social affair of the year in Tampa – Gasparilla.
The “February Association” decided on a theme (Carnival in Rio) and a location (The Ritz Theater in Ybor City) for the extravaganza. Those Founding members included Donald Severance, Jefferson Harkins, Joe Shepard, Andy Johnson, Victor Leon, Pete Almerico, Chuck Bumpus, Craig Cathart, Tim Davis, Tom Hughes, Jim Sweat, Ed Vollrath, Gary Ward, John Mark Whitehurst, Dan Arias, Michael Schine and Jim Varrone. Over 600 excited quests attended the first Ball in February, 1985 and many clamored for more. The group was urged by their friends to attempt an annual event and accepted the challenge.
Andy Johnson is credited with having first suggested the name “Krewe of Cavaliers” around this time. Cavaliers, by definition, are gallant and dashing gentlemen that appropriately described the young twenty-something group. Guests were given passports to the “Jungle” in 1986. The new Krewe spent countless hours on preparation, props and decorations with thick foliage, lion and tiger caricatures and the centerpiece, an erupting volcano! With the All Hallows Masquerade Ball having resumed in 1985, the last annual costumed theme party by the Krewe was held in 1987 when the members premiered a self produced feature film “Science Fiction – Double Feature” on giant double screens.
In 1988, the Cavaliers enlarged their scope. The Tampa AIDS Network (TAN) was a new organization vital to many victims in the Tampa Bay area and needed financial help . The Krewe decided to help alleviate the crisis. A black tie event was deemed appropriate for a fundraiser and was hosted. Themes over the next few years included “Cavalier High School”, “An Ambassadorial Reception”, “A Cruise to Remember” and “A Night in Havana”. Venues included the Harbor Island Hotel, the Sheraton East, the Tampa Convention Center and the Hyatt Regency.
The events expanded to include a pre-function, dinner, dancing and entertainment. Some years star entertainment was contracted, such as Thelma Houston, Pamela Stanley and Martha Wash.
The event grew more when, in 1993, Henri Van Ryn championed a less expensive affair to encompass a larger segment of the community, DecaDance . Over a thousand people attended these informal, high energy dances, staged the night before the formal ball. In 1994, a Sunday brunch at Victor Leon’s Ho Ho restaurant was added making a three-day weekend of fun.
The costs for the large balls skyrocketed and required a huge commitment of human resources by 1996. The Krewe needed to return to its original vision of providing fabulous entertainment on a lesser scale for its members and friends.
The first Cotillion, was held at the Tampa Club in 1997. Its success continued with venues such as the Don Cesar, the Belleview Biltmore, the Vinoy and the Don Vicente de Ybor. In 2005 the Cotillion was renamed Coronation Ball to emulate the other area Krewes’ nomenclature.
With the vision of Gary Smith, in 1996, the Krewe of Cavaliers joined the Inter-Krewe Council, becoming the 12th “recognized” Krewe in Tampa. The February, 1997 participation of the costumed Krewe on a float in the Krewe of Sant’ Yago’s Illuminated Knight Parade marked the beginning of the modern Krewe era.
In 1998, new Bylaws were adopted officially designating members as Knights of the Krewe of Cavaliers, a social organization.
With Smith at the helm, the social focus of the Krewe expanded and included more extracurricular events planned for the Knights, Courtiers and guests throughout the year. The vast array of activities includes monthly socials, weekend adventures, boating excursions, road rallies and biking trips.
In today’s Krewe, active membership as a Knight Preceptor is limited to 40 persons; nominees are elected annually when openings occur. The Krewe also has distinctions of Knights Emeriti and Courtiers which enlarge the organization considerably. The Krewe is comprised of men and women of varied professional background, economic situation, sexual orientation, race and creed.
Presidents of the Krewe of Cavaliers:
1984 - 1990 Donald Severance
First President of the Krewe of Cavaliers
Eternal Imperial Knight Commander of the Legion of Honor
1990 - 1992 Paul Cook
Second President of the Krewe of Cavaliers
1992 - 1994 Jim Garvey
Third President of the Krewe of Cavaliers
1994 - 1995 Tony Ulloa
Fourth President of the Krewe of Cavaliers
1995 - 1998 Gary Smith
Fifth President of the Krewe of Cavaliers
First Illustrious Knight Commander
Illustrious Knight Commanders, Knights of the Krewe of Cavaliers:
1998 - 2013 Gary Smith
First Knight Commander of the Knights of the Krewe of Cavaliers
2013 - Present Harvey Petty
Commander of the Knights of the Krewe of Cavaliers
Our highest recognition for two Knights:
Jefferson Harkins and Andy Johnson, who,
in addition to being two of our original Founders,
have been contiunuously active on the Krewe since its inception.
Founder, Krewe Treasurer for 10 years; set up the first Krewe web page; created the first Krewe DVD for the Krewe's 20th Anniversary; Host of many Pool Parties
Founder, Squire Master for many years; Host of Conclaves; Captain of first Cotillion; MC at many Black Tie Balls; Captain of Entertainment for Black Tie Balls
Emeritus status is achieved upon completion of 10 years of service
Members are listed by year they joined the Krewe
Henri Van Ryn
Captain DecaDance; Co-Host of "Piano Sing A Long" Conclave
12 years as Chancellor of the Exchequer on the KORT; Captain of the Budgetary Committee; Host of Conclaves
Captain of Lights and Sound for years; Host of Holiday Conclaves
Former KORT Member; Captain of the Food Tasting Committee; Organized the Cavalier Car Rally; Host of many Conclaves, including a Rush Party
President 3 years, First Illustrious Knight Commander, serving 10 years; Primary creator of the modern Krewe, Organizer of first "3 Hour Cruise"; Pinellas Trail Bike Rides; first organized Trip to Gay Daze; Itchenetucknee Tubing Trip; Rainbow River Cruise; Captain of Regalia; and much more …
First Captain of Knight Parade
Former KORT Member; Host of several Conclaves, including a Rush Party
Former KORT member; Main Author of modern Krewe By Laws; Captain of Cotillion at Belleview Biltmore; Hosted with Courtier Héctor, the Krewe at the Performing Arts Center, Host of several Conclaves; Host of Film Festival/Cavalier Parties
First Squire Master; Captain of the Coronation Committee; Host of a number of First Knights at the Tampa Club; instrumental in arranging our Post Knight Parade Parties
Captain of Decoration Committee, Hosted, with Courtier Rick, the Krewe's only official Gasparilla Day Party for 3 years
Former Board of Directors Member
Founder, Captain of Coronation; Organizer of many Conclaves
Former KORT Member; Official accountant for a number of years
** Special Thanks to Andy Johnson, Gary Smith and others who contributed valuable script and information.