The Henry Plant Museum Society hosted a kickoff event for the Gasparilla season called "Tall Tales & Scandalous Stories" on Friday night at the University of Tampa. Three former Tampa mayors regaled the audience with stories about parades, pirates, and plifering from their experiences with the annual celebration. Combined, the mayors represent over 30 years in office in City Hall. Former Florida Governor and Tampa Mayor Bob Martinez was also scheduled to appear. According to Sally Shifke, museum relations coordinator, Martinez had a scheduling conflict and was not able to attend.
The event was moderated by Boyd Wynn, a longtime member of Ye Mystic Krewe of Gasparilla. The event was also a celebration of the opening night of a museum exhibit, Gasparilla: A Tampa Tradition, in the Henry Plant Museum that runs through Feb. 17.
The hour-long presentation allowed former mayors and attendees to reminisce about both good and difficult times related to Gasparilla. Mayor Freedman talked about the controversy that arose in 1991 when the city attempted to host both the Super Bowl and the Gasparilla parade, and the Krewe, rather than concede to NFL pressure and admit black members, canceled the parade. (The Krewes and the parade have since integrated.) Mayor Iorio also jokingly disclosed that, after getting into office and finding about all of the city's inherent problems, what a pleasure it was to relinquish the keys to the city to someone else — even a pirate — for a short period.
With the official start of the Gasparilla season, there are numerous events happening all over the city for the next several weeks. You can find a schedule here which includes the Children's Gasparilla Extravaganza, The Gasparilla Pirate Fest, and the Krewe of Santiago Knight Parade. Bring your cameras! Arrrgh!