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Party like Pirates Every January at Gasparilla

Ahoy, mateys! Get ready to unleash your inner pirate because Gasparilla is just around the corner! The annual Gasparilla Pirate Festival is all set to dock in Tampa Bay on Saturday, January 27, from 9...

Ahoy, mateys! Get ready to unleash your inner pirate because Gasparilla is just around the corner! The annual Gasparilla Pirate Festival is all set to dock in Tampa Bay on Saturday, January 27, from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. Brace yourself for an unforgettable experience filled with swashbuckling adventures and buried treasures.

Embrace the Spirit of Gasparilla

The Gasparilla Pirate Festival is no ordinary event. It's a grand parade that brings the spirit of pirates past to life, captivating both visitors and locals alike. Originating in Tampa, every January witnesses the transformation of this one-day extravaganza into a season of celebrations – Gasparilla season. From the end of January until mid-March, patrons can enjoy a series of events, including music festivals and art shows.

The Legend of Gasparilla

the annual Gasparilla Pirate Festival celebrates the mythical José Gaspar, a Spanish pirate who may or may not have sailed these waters. It all began with an infamous pirate named José Gaspar. According to Florida folklore, Gaspar was a Spanish aristocratic officer who turned into a pirate, terrorizing the Gulf of Mexico in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. Settling along the barrier islands of Southwest Florida, Gaspar allegedly captured 36 ships between 1784 and 1795. Changing his name to "Gasparilla" and his ship's name to "Jose Gasparilla," the pirate transformed his life into one of adventure and treasure-seeking. However, Gasparilla was unlike other pirates of his time. Educated, well-mannered, and well-read, he stood out in society with his noble character.

But was Gasparilla real or just a myth? Historians have never discovered any concrete evidence of his existence. Nevertheless, the legend lives on, captivating the imaginations of all those who join the festivities.

From Mock Invasion to Annual Tradition

The Jose Gasparilla pirate ship, carrying members of Ye Mystic Krewe of Gasparilla, arrives at the Tampa Convention Center during the 103nd Gasparilla Invasion and Parade of the Pirates on Jan. 25, 2020, in Tampa. The Gasparilla celebrations didn't begin until the early 20th century. In 1904, Miss Louise Francis Dodge, a society editor of the Tampa Tribune, and George W. Hardee, a federal government employee, came up with a plan to promote the city's May Day celebration. The first "Ye Mystic Krewe of Gasparilla" was formed, consisting of forty members who wanted to surprise the city with a mock pirate attack. With costumes rented from New Orleans, the Krewe arrived on horseback, capturing the city's attention during the Festival Parade on May 4, 1904. Ever since that day, Tampa continues the tradition with enthusiasm year after year.

Join the Party in Downtown Tampa

Gasparilla Pirate Festival takes place in downtown Tampa, Florida. Be a part of the thrilling annual "pirate invasion" as the Jose Gasparilla ship sets sail at the south end of Hillsborough Bay at 11:30 a.m. It will voyage north to Seddon Channel, docking at the Tampa Convention Center at 1 p.m. The 4.5-mile parade commences soon after at Bayshore and Bay to Bay Boulevard, culminating at Ashley and Cass Streets. Public parade viewing is available at Bay to Bay Boulevard, Gunby and Platt Streets, and throughout downtown.

Fun for All Ages

Gasparilla Pirate Festival may get a little rowdy for the youngest pirates. That's why there is a family-friendly alternative – the Gasparilla Children's Parade. Taking place the weekend prior, this event offers a variety of activities, including a bicycle rodeo, a parade, and a breathtaking fireworks show.

Dress the Part

When attending Gasparilla Pirate Fest, let your inner pirate shine through with the perfect buccaneer ensemble. Puffy shirts, blouses, vests, corsets, pants, hats, boots, and eye patches are popular choices among Gasparilla guests. Some take it a step further with props, makeup, and even real parrots (though it's not recommended!). And don't forget the beads – they're an essential part of the festivities.

Raise Your Glass (in Designated Areas)

While you can enjoy a drink along the parade route in approved areas, remember that drinking is not permitted in neighborhoods. So be sure to sip your favorite libations responsibly as you immerse yourself in the festivities.

Join the Action

Here's the schedule of events for this year's Gasparilla:

  • 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. - Gasparilla Invasion Brunch (Held at the Tampa Convention Center with limited seating. Tickets are available for advanced purchase).
  • 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. - Gasparilla Invasion
  • 2 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. - Gasparilla Parade of Pirates
  • 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. - Gasparilla Stage Performances (Live music and entertainment before, during, and after the parade at Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park)

Find a Place to Park

If you're wondering where to park, there are various garages and lots throughout downtown Tampa. Some offer special event parking rates, which must be paid upon entry. Here are a few options:

  • Pam Iorio Parking Garage, located at S. Florida Ave & Channelside Dr. (opens at 8 a.m. with limited spaces)
  • Tampa Convention Center Garage, located at Tampa St. & Brorein St. (open 24 hours)
  • Fort Brooke Garage, located at Whiting St. between Franklin St. & Florida Ave (8 a.m. - 9 p.m.)
  • Whiting St. Garage, located at N. Morgan St. (open 8 a.m. - 9 p.m.)
  • Selmon Expressway Downtown parking lots (open 8 a.m. - 9 p.m.)
  • Royal Regional Lot, located at Tampa Street and Fortune St. (open 24 hours)
  • Scott Street Lot, located at Morgan St. and Scott St. (open 24 hours)
  • Poe Garage, located at N. Ashley Dr. and W. Cass St. (note: closed from 1 - 6 p.m. to accommodate the parade route, open 24 hours otherwise)
  • Twiggs Street Garage, located at Twiggs St. west of Nebraska Ave. (open 24 hours with a standard hourly rate and a $12 maximum)
  • Centro Ybor Garage, located at 5th Ave. and 15 St. (open 24 hours with a standard hourly rate and a $12 maximum)
  • Palm Ave. Garage, located at 13th St. and 9th Ave. (open 24 hours with a standard hourly rate and a $12 maximum)

Note that on-street parking meters will be enforced from 8 a.m. until midnight.

So gather your crew, put on your pirate gear, and set sail for Gasparilla Pirate Festival. It's a one-of-a-kind experience that will transport you back to the days of swashbuckling adventures on the high seas. Let the spirit of Gasparilla ignite your imagination and create memories that will last a lifetime. Yo ho ho!

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