Gasparilla Pirate Festival

Gasparilla Pirate Festival

The Gasparilla Pirate Festival is an annual celebration held in the city of Tampa, Florida. Held each year in late January and hosted by Ye Mystic Krewe of Gasparilla and the City of Tampa, it celebrates the apocryphal legend of José Gaspar (Gasparilla), supposedly a Spanish pirate captain who operated in southwest Florida. The theme is an "invasion" by Gasparilla and his men, which begins when the "Krewe" (made up of residents of the city) arrives on a 165' long pirate ship, the "Jose Gaspar", in Tampa Bay and land 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, one of Tampa's major streets. The krewes throw beads, coins and other items while shooting blank pistols from floats during the parade. The average attendance for the event is over 400,000 people. According the event's official website, 2003's Gasparilla parade affected an economic impact of nearly 23 million dollars to Tampa. []

Krewe memberships are highly sought after in many social circles in Tampa, 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 involved in the parade, and among the most prestigious. Members of the many krewes that now participate spend a great deal of money on beads and floats.

A week before the "invasion" and the main parade, Ye Mystic Krewe of Gasparilla sponsors a family-oriented children's parade and "Piratechnic Extravaganza," with fireworks launched over Tampa Bay. 2006's fireworks display included an impressive airborne element, where an imaginary sea battle took place between a pirate ship in the harbor and a plane which shot off fireworks while doing acrobatic maneuvers.

A few weeks after the invasion, there is a more adult-oriented Sant'Yago Knight Parade (also known as the Gasparilla Night Parade) in Ybor City, held in the evening and running into the early morning. Krewes have social events and parties throughout the year for members and hold philanthropic events for favored causes. The parade is broadcast every year on WFLA-TV, and has been since 1955.


Gasparilla was first held in May 1904 in Tampa Bay, but the invasion originated on horseback instead of by boat. In years past, a US Navy ship would be attacked by small boats throwing Cuban bread and black bean soup. The Navy would respond with fire hoses but would succumb to the Ybor City Navy, and then surrender to the Alcalde of Ybor City. The sailors would be treated to an evening on the town. This was discontinued after the September 11, 2001 attacks. However, the invasion itself continues as "Capt. Jose Gaspar" and his crew of "Pirates" "attack" Tampa, surrounded by hundreds of other boaters as they sail the Gasparilla Ship through Tampa Bay,land in Downtown Tampa and "take over the city."

Historically, Gasparilla was held on the second Monday of February until 1988, when it was moved to a Saturday festival in February. This change allowed more local communities to take part in the celebration. In 2001, the event was moved to the last Saturday of January to coincide with Super Bowl XXXV weekend, since Tampa's Raymond James Stadium was hosting the game that year. [ [ Superbowl2001: Gasparilla Supersized ] ] Since 2005, the event has been held on the last Saturday of January.

In 2004 the event celebrated its 100th anniversary. The first ever Gasparilla Pageant, crowning queens and kings of all ages to represent the celebration was produced by local ad girl, Stephanie Sims and Aim Direct Media in 2007. This event crosses over the various Krewes.

Beginning in January 2008, an old tradition which ended in 1964 was revived. "The Gasparilla March Triumphant: The Return to the Sea" gives the event a sense of closure. During this ceremony, the Krewe's pirates return the key to the mayor and board the Jose Gasparilla to return to sea. This tradition was revived as a way to officially end Gasparilla season.




*Ans, Andre-Marcel d' (1980). " [ The Legend of Gasparilla: Myth and History on Florida's West Coast"] . "Tampa Bay History".

External links

* [ Gasparilla Pirate Festival] - Official Site
* [] - Information and Pictures
* [ Gasaprilla Pageant] - Miss Gasparilla Pageant

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