Ahoy, Matey! Don your best pirate garb and celebrate with a swashbuckling good time – what you need to know about Gasparilla.
Gasparilla is large pirate-themed parade, and other community events, held in Tampa in late January. The parade has been celebrated almost every year since 1904. The parade celebrates the invasion of Jose Gaspar, a mythical Spanish pirate also known as Gasparilla. The events kick off with the invasion of the city of Tampa. Hundreds of boats accompany the Jose Gasparilla, a 165-foot-long pirate ship built in 1954 just for this event, across Tampa Bay into downtown Tampa. Once ashore, the pirate captain demands the mayor of Tampa hand over the key to the city. The following parade celebrates the pirates’ invasion.
Various krewes (private social organizations – a name that comes from New Orleans’ Mardi Gras) participate in the four-mile parade, tossing out pirate booty like beads, coins and other trinkets. According to Visit Tampa Bay, the Gasparilla Parade of Pirates is the third largest parade in the United States and is attended by 300,000 onlookers. The festivities continue all day and into the night with the Gasparilla Pirate Fest Street Festival, live music and food vendors. This year, the Parade of Pirates will be held on January 27 with the invasion beginning at 11am and parade at 2pm.
There is a separate parade for children and families called the Gasparilla Children’s Parade. It is held the Saturday before the main parade and is an alcohol free event. This year, it will be held on January 20 and is an all-day event starting at 11am, parade from 3:30-6pm and fireworks at 7pm.
The Sant’ Yago Illuminated Knight Parade is held in Ybor City two weeks following the invasion. This is your opportunity to see elaborate lighted floats and party into the night. This year, it will be held on February 10 at 6:30pm.
The weeks following the initial invasion is referred to as Gasparilla Season for all the following Gasparilla events like the Gasparilla Distance Classic, and the art, music, and film festivals. Finally, the events end in the Outbound Voyage where the pirate captain returns the key to the city to the mayor and sails away. This year it will be held on March 3.
Locals and visitors enjoy these swashbuckling events every year! Remember to dress accordingly - pirate theme is appreciated. Events are free but reserved seating for parades is available for purchase and start at $38. Roads are closed for the parade, so allow extra time for traffic and parking- Visit Tampagov.net for info. No glass containers or coolers are allowed. As always, designate a driver and do not drink and drive.