TAMPA — Michael Taylor pushed a newborn baby in a stroller on Sunday afternoon, following his wife and teenage daughter around bustling Higgins Hall.
Around Taylor’s family, bouncing Latin rhythms thumped from an array of speakers, dozens of vendors chatted up prospective clients and people snapped pictures of models in gowns.
Amid the activity, a woman with pink hair, who appeared to grow through the center of a table, distributed gum balls to passersby.
Taylor’s daughter, Jailene Melendez, who attends Sickles High School in Tampa, will be 15 this summer, and the family is planning her quinceañera celebration, similar to a Sweet 16 birthday party, or bat mitzvah.
Taylor’s was one of hundreds of families that attended the eighth-annual Quinceañera Fashion Show and Expo on Sunday.
“We’re definitely going to do an event, like in a ballroom,” Taylor said. “We’ll get the dress and music and there will be a court with 15 of her friends, and couples. They’ll do a (dance).
“We’re a little bit behind, but that’s why we’re here.”
Asked how much Jailene’s quinceañera might cost, Taylor smiled and shrugged.
“That’s what we’re trying to find out,” he said. “We could be looking at $4,000 to $5,000.”
In many Hispanic cultures, a girl’s 15th birthday is celebrated as a passage to womanhood, and honors the girl’s family and community.
The Higgins Hall event was produced by Centro Tampa and supported by The Tampa Tribune and tbo.com.
Cristina Bermudez Przybycin, owner of The Platinum Zipper in Tampa, coordinator of the fashion show and editor of the event’s guide, said the expo is meant as an easy way for families to meet vendors and plan their celebration.
“We’ve got everybody you need,” she said. “(Vendors for) dresses, hair, make-up, decor, music, centerpieces, venues and entertainment.”
The Platinum Zipper sells long dresses, party dresses, ball gowns and dresses specifically for quinceañeras, as well as shoes.
Przybycin said that 600 girls were expected to attend Sunday’s event and many teens brought several family members.
Deanna Perez, 17, was the cover model of last year’s Centro Tampa Quince Guide, a glossy full-color catalog distributed at the event. She modeled a flowing pink gown on Sunday and smiled for one picture after another with young girls excited about their pending 15th birthdays.
Deanna’s mother, Melissa Colon, of Tampa, said families could expect to spend around $5,000 on a quinceañera.
“That’s, like, a very practical” figure,” Colon said. “My friends had one for over $15,000. It’s like a mini-wedding.”
Cristal Bermudez, of Tampa, is Przybycin’s sister. Bermudez, who doubled as The Platinum Zipper’s gum ball-distributing “living table,” talked about her own quinceañera, which was 13 years ago.
Back then, she said, there was no one-stop destination for families planning quinceañeras.
“It was hard to get a hold of vendors and it was very do-it-yourself,” she said. “This is so helpful because (anything you need is right here). You can take care of it all in one day.
“You used to ask (businesses) about quinceañeras, and nobody knew what you were talking about. I even had to get a dress made.”
Przybycin said that celebrating quinceañeras is important not just for her business, but also in preserving Hispanic traditions.
“Sometimes that gets lost,” she said. “We want to celebrate young Latin women.”