Tampa welcomes Prince Hall Shriners and Daughters of Isis for national convention

August 13, 2010

From www.tbo.com :

The name is mysterious, confusing even.

But by the end of next week, we’ll likely know a lot more about the Ancient Egyptian Arabic Order of the Nobles of the Mystic Shrine.

The Prince Hall Shriners and the Daughters of Isis affiliated with Prince Hall today begins its national convention at the Tampa Convention Center. It runs through Aug. 19 and expects to draw between 15,000 and 20,000 visitors, rivaling the largest non-sporting conventions the city has ever seen.

These are Shriners, but not the ones based in Tampa. That group held its international convention here four years ago with a similar number attending.

This group is predominantly black. They, too, wear the trademark red, tasseled fezzes. They hold parades, dress up as clowns and help underprivileged kids.

The group headquartered in Tampa is mostly white.

“Basically, since the founder was an African American, there was a separation of the races,” said Warren Spears, imperial director of public and media relations in New Orleans. “There still is, for the most part, although there is more integration of the groups now.”

As far as conventions go, it is expected to be among the largest held in Tampa. With the economy and local tourism still struggling, it couldn’t come at a better time, said Travis Claytor, communications manager for Tampa Bay & Co., Hillsborough County’s visitors marketing bureau.

Members from more than 220 temples around the world plan to attend. They’re expected to book 15,000 hotel room nights and spend about $8 million.

“This is huge for us,” Claytor said. “Any time you have this many people spending time in our city, it’s a boost to the economy. And then they go back and spread the word about the fun they had in Tampa.”

The group’s 117th annual Imperial Session includes workshops, meetings and mentoring sessions. It also features a big parade in Ybor City on Aug. 18. from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m.

“The parade takes four hours, and there are over 150 units that take part in it,” Spears said. “Anyone who comes out to see it would enjoy it.”

The headquarters hotel is the Tampa Marriott Waterside Hotel & Marina. They also plan various competitions and events across the city.

“Cities invite us to come,” Spears said. “Our group generates a lot of money for cities. We stay in hotels, generally eat three meals a day and rent a lot of cars. We take cab rides, and the ladies like to shop.”

More than the 15,000 members are expected, Spears said, because families and friends tend to tag along.

The last time Tampa held a convention this big was in 2006 when the Shriners of North America came to town for a five-day convention.

Tampa’s conventions typically attract fewer than 5,000 attendees. Sometimes, though, the city lands larger groups.

The Shrine is deeply rooted in Masonry.

The black Shriners group was founded by a freed slave named Prince Hall. He, along with a few other free black men, was initiated into a British Masonic lodge in Boston in 1775. They later formed their own lodge.

White Masons started another group in 1872, called the Ancient Arabic Order of the Nobles of the Mystic Shrine. Its mission was to have fun and do charitable deeds. In 1893, the black Masons formed their own fraternal group: The Ancient Egyptian Arabic Order of the Mystic Shrine.

Locally, groups providing support for the convention include the Prince Hall Shriners and two women’s auxiliaries, Harram Temple No. 23 and Harram Court No. 96 Daughters of Isis.

It’s not only the economy that will benefit from the convention, Spears said.

The group will contribute to a local diabetes clinic and will donate book bags and a year’s worth of school supplies to four area schools. They also plan to give away bicycles to some area youth.


One comment

  1. […] Tampa welcomes Prince Hall Shriners and Daughters of Isis for national convention August 2010 4 […]

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