This Saturday January 27th, the city of Tampa, Florida will be invaded by thousands of Pirates as part of Gasparilla Fest. Named for the pirate “Jose Gaspar”, who terrorized the coastal waters of West Florida during the late 18th and early 19th centuries, Tampa’s annual Gasparilla celebration begins with a flotilla of hundreds of boats lead by the 165′ pirate ship “Jose Gasparilla” which sails across Tampa Bay in route to the Downtown Tampa Convention Center. Once the ship lands, the pirate captain demands that the mayor hand over the key to the city in a playful ceremony which has had different outcomes in different years.
“It’s Like Mardi Gras in New Orleans”
Whether or not the mayor actually “surrenders”, the pirates hold a huge parade through the streets of Tampa as part of their victory celebration.
The festivities continue into the evening at the Gasparilla Pirate Fest Street Festival with live music, food and entertainment. Many related events and parties start the week before the landing and continue until the conclusion of Pirate Fest.
Aerial view of the Pirate Ship “Jose Gasparilla” gathering followers and firing Canons as part of the Pirate Invasion of Downtown Tampa.
It’s like Mardi Gras in New Orleans but with a Pirate theme. During the parade, members of Ye Mystic Krewe of Gasparilla and dozens of other krewes throw beads, coins, and various souvenirs to the crowds from mostly pirate-themed floats. Area high schools and universities provide marching bands, cheerleaders, majorettes, and many local businesses and organizations participate by entering elaborate floats and joining the krewes in throwing beads and other trinkets to the crowd much like a Mardi Gras Parade. In the past, many members would fire .38 six-shooters loaded with blanks into the air and toss the empty shells into the crowd. This tradition was restricted in 1992 and ended entirely several years later. However, trained members still fire loud mini-cannons mounted atop several of their parade floats.
The Gasparilla Pirate Festival is attended by over 300,000 onlookers, many donning period-themed pirate costuming. The parade is considered to be the third largest parade in the United States, following the two that are bigger: Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City and the Rose Parade in Pasadena, California.
The Gasparilla invasion begins at 11 a.m. Saturday out in the bay and the parade starts at 2 p.m., proceeding along the 4.5-mile route along Bayshore Boulevard from Bay to Bay Boulevard into downtown. The parade, which has been presented by the Ye Mystic Krewe of Gasparilla since 1904, has more than 140 units, over 100 floats, marching bands, and over 50 participating social organizations. The economic impact is estimated at over 25 million dollars to the city of Tampa.
For more info on the parade and street closures click this link.
Contributed by: Martin J. Allred