Growing up, my father and I would dress up as pirates, and as an adult moving back to the Tampa area from Boston, I do the same. The costumes I wear are similar to those I wore as a child in the sense that they are homemade.
To this day I still wear the same eye patch. There may have been some threads hanging, but the fond memories of my dad helping me bedazzle costumes (pre-Bedazzle machine) and carrying me all day on his shoulders are why I love Gasparilla.
The festivities of this year's Gasparilla Parade and Pirate Fest will take place on Sat., Jan. 26, starting with legendary invasion of Tampa’s historic pirate ship, the Jose Gasparilla from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Amid the colorful ship and cannon fire, Ye Mystic Crew of Gasparilla will lead the annual re-enactment of Tampa’s historic pirate invasion. Jose Gasparilla will dock at the Tampa Convention Center at 1 p.m., at which time Mayor Bob Buckhorn will surrender the Key to the City of Tampa to the captain of Ye Mystic Krewe.
To celebrate this victory, the Parade of Pirates will invade Bayshore Boulevard from 2 to 5:30 p.m. Krewes will shower the crowd with beads and treasures whilst adorning pirate costumes that will make you want to walk the plank!
This year, more than 90 floats, 14 marching bands and 50 Krewes will sail down the 3.8-mile parade route, which begins at Bay to Bay and Bayshore boulevards. The procession then continues down Bayshore to Brorein Street, turns east and then heads north on Ashley Drive. The parade surrenders the last of its booty at Cass and Ashley streets.
Fun fact: Gasparilla used to be celebrated the second Monday in February (I can only imagine how many people hoisted up a black flag the second Tuesday of every February!) In 1988 tradition was broke and the festivities were held on a Saturday. Then in 2002, the parade was moved to the last Saturday of every January, where today’s tradition lies.
Parking will be available throughout downtown Tampa and Ybor City. Streetcar, bus and trolley services will also be available. All information, including how to purchase all-day TECO Line Streetcar and Hart Bus Service passes and maps outlining service routes, can be found at gasparillapiratefest.com/parking.shtml
The event is free. Exclusive bleacher seat tickets and souvenirs can be purchased by visiting gasparillatreasures.com.
So batten down yer hatches, grab yer booty, pick up a swashbucklin’ bucko or three and shiver yer timbers on down to the Gasparilla Parade and Pirate Fest! Arrrrrggghhhh!
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