The Pirates Are Here! Staying Safe & Having Fun at Gasparilla
In the early days of Florida history, when our state was still a Spanish territory, locals would have been terrified to see a pirate ship sailing swiftly into Tampa Bay. But now, when a notorious captain and his crew come sailing in, thousands of fans will welcome them.
The Gasparilla Pirate Festival is a classic Tampa tradition. There’s plenty of debate over whether the festival’s namesake, Jose Gaspar, actually existed. He’s said to have plundered along the southwest coast in the 1700s, though little information actually backs any of it up. Still, that doesn’t stop thousands of attendees from showing up!
Gasparilla was first celebrated in 1904. Since then, it’s been celebrated every year, with a brief pause during World War II, and has become a staple of Tampa society. During Gasparilla, dedicated revelers reenact the arrival of Jose Gaspar in Tampa Bay, complete with a magnificent pirate ship that sails into the city. Every year, Gaspar and his colorful Ye Mystic Krewe demand the key to the city from the Mayor of Tampa, and celebrate their victory with a wild parade. Other events, including a children’s parade and a 5K, take place in the days surrounding the main festivities.
This year, Gasparilla takes place on January 26, 2019. The invasion will begin around 11:30, and the parade starts around 2:00. The event is free to the public.
Will You Be There?
Here are some safety tips to keep in mind:
- Stay hydrated. Thankfully, Gasparilla takes place in the slightly cooler season, so temperatures won’t be in the high 80s like they usually are. But as all Floridians know, it can still get hot! Bring your own small water bottle, or be sure to purchase water throughout the day.
- Don’t over-imbibe. Gasparilla involves pirates and debauchery, so it’s not shocking that it’s a big drinking festival, too. If you plan on drinking, be responsible. Organize a ride home in advance, or plan to stay at a nearby friend’s house.
- Have a plan. If you’re with a group, plan ahead in case you get separated. Have a designated meeting spot. Make sure everyone is accounted for before you leave.
- Watch out for obnoxious people. While you’re responsibly enjoying the parade, you can’t always account for the actions of others. Look out for drunk drivers (or drunk boaters, or drunk bicyclists, or just drunk people in general!) and stay alert. People also tend to get overzealous when trying to catch the beads thrown from the parade, so watch out for that.
- Be respectful of others and enjoy the fun!
Are you a Gasparilla pro? What advice would you offer to someone going to the parade for the first time?
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