Home Arts and Life Pirates storm Tampa Bay at Gasparilla

Pirates storm Tampa Bay at Gasparilla

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Mateys from all over invaded Bayshore Boulevard this weekend to celebrate Tampa’s favorite extravaganza of debauchery.

The cold weather didn’t seem to deter the people of Tampa from their annual display of intemperance in pirate garb. Truly like no other celebration in the world, Gasparilla is more than just Florida’s favorite college drinking day; it’s also an integral part of Tampa’s history and culture. 

Pirate Party: Parade attendees enjoy themselves at Gasparilla on Saturday. Courtesy of Angelina Bruno
Pirate Party: Parade attendees enjoy themselves at Gasparilla on Saturday. Courtesy of Angelina Bruno

Gasparilla is named after José Gaspar, a presumably apocryphal pirate, who is said to have terrorized the coasts of Florida in the early 1800s. He is rumored to have left his treasure buried somewhere along Florida’s coastlines.

The ship José Gasparilla II leads the sea portion of the parade across Hillsborough Bay alongside all the other boats who join the invasion. The José Gasparilla II is the only fully rigged pirate ship in the world, built in 1954.

The ship docks at the Tampa Convention Center, where the mayor of Tampa “surrenders” the city key to the pirates. The pirates then celebrate their victory by leading the land parade down Bayshore, nearly 3.8 miles. All the people who didn’t pass out under a palm tree already gather along the street to earn as many beads as they can.

The city first celebrated the Gasparilla Parade in 1904 and has occurred almost every year since. This year’s parade had only eight arrests, much less than last year’s over 20. Thirty-five people were brought to the hospital, one for trauma alert.

Tampa’s prime trademark lived up to its prestige this year once again.

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