The 2012 Seminole Hard Rock Gasparilla Pirate Fest took place on Saturday Jan. 28 from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m., in downtown Tampa. As a tradition, the Gasparilla Invasion starts with the crew entering at Hillsborough Bay in the Jose Gasparilla pirate ship. Then comes the Gasparilla brunch, where the Mayor surrenders the key to the city, this is followed by the Gasparilla Parade of Pirates. So what exactly is Gasparilla and where does it fit in with the history and heritage of Tampa?
In basic terms, The Gasparilla Pirate Fest Street Festival is an annual festival. It was once family oriented, but is now geared more towards the college demographic. Gasparilla features parades, stages with live entertainment, and food. ‘Ye Mystic Krewe of Gasparilla’ has been invading Tampa since 1904, inviting all to share in their ‘trinkets ‘n’ treasures’. During the Parade of the Pirates, which took place along Bayshore Boulevard this year, beads, doubloons and other treasures were thrown down to the crowds and bands of marauding buccaneers. The festivities, however, began even before the pirates invaded and captured the city, and continued long after the last pirate has paraded through the streets!
The festival celebrates the apocryphal legend of José Gaspar (Gasparilla). Who was supposedly a Spanishpirate captain who operated in Southwest Florida. The theme is an “invasion” by Gasparilla and his men, which begins with the “Krewe” (made up of residents of the city) arriving on a 165′ long pirate ship, the Jose Gaspar. The Jose Gaspar lands near downtown Tampa. The mayor of Tampa then lends the key of the city to the pirate captain and a parade ensues down Bayshore Boulevard. The pirates stand on top of floats and throw beads, coins and other items, while shooting pistols loaded with blanks. The average attendance for the event is over 400,000 people with the parade being broadcast every year on WFLA-TV, since 1955. According to www.gasparillapiratefest.com, 2003’s Gasparilla parade stimulated the local economy by generating nearly 23 million dollars.
It’s interesting to note that Krewe memberships are highly sought after, and many celebrate ethnic and cultural themes. The Ye Mystic Krewe of Gasparilla, the organization which founded and sponsors the parade, is the oldest krewe in Tampa, and among the most prestigious. Members of the many krewes spend a great deal of money on beads and floats. Tampa Bay area high schools, and universities provide marching bands, majorettes, and drill teams as part of the festivities, which are similar to the Mardi Gras parades of New Orleans .
The week of Jan. 21, Ye Mystic Krewe of Gasparilla sponsored the family-oriented children’s parade as tradition and “Piratechnic Extravaganza,” with fireworks launched over Tampa Bay. The Children’s Gasparilla Extravaganza is an alcohol free event, celebrating the return of the Gasparilla season in Tampa Bay. This year, The Children’s Gasparilla Extravaganza, featured a preschoolers stroll, air invasion, ’piratechnic extravaganza’ and a parade.
In the weeks that follow, there will be a more adult-oriented Sant’Yago Knight Parade (also known as the Gasparilla Knight Parade) in Ybor City. The Sant’Yago Knight Parade will be held in the evening and continue into the early morning. Krewes have social events and parties throughout the year for members and hold philanthropic events for favored causes. It’s important to note that Gasparilla is a free community event, with over 100 years of history in Tampa Bay. What differentiates the festival from most, is the fact that 100% of the net revenue from everything, including the Gasparilla Charity Beer Gardens, supports local Tampa Bay area charities. These organization have contributed over $300,000 to such charities in the past five years. If any Saint Leo students would like to learn more information about Gasparilla, or are interested in volunteer opportunities contact firstname.lastname@example.org.