TAMPA – Avast, me hearties! Just in time for Talk Like A Pirate Day, heave to and prepare yourself for Gasparilla, Tampa Bay’s annual pirate party! As they have every year since 1905, legendary pirate José Gaspar and his band of ruffians will sail the nation’s only fully functional pirate ship, the José Gasparilla, once more into the heart of our city on Jan. 28. Then, beads a-flyin’, he’ll lead the Gasparilla Parade of Pirates -- the U.S.’s third-largest parade -- down scenic Bayshore Boulevard.
Here’s what you need to know to conquer this year’s Gasparilla. Say, “Arrgh!”
Since 1905, Tampa Bay’s legendary pirate José Gaspar and his Mystic Krewe of Gasparilla have invaded downtown with cannons booming and cutlasses unsheathed, bent on plunder. On Jan. 29, they’ll kick off this year’s party with the Pre-Invasion Celebration, complete with music and food, in downtown’s Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park. Two days later, on Jan. 30, the tri-masted pirate ship José Gasparilla, joined by a flotilla of pirate wannabes, will sail into town spoiling for some fun.
Lesson No. 1 of Gasparilla: It never hurts to dress the part when pirates invade your town. If you’re lucky, they’ll think you’re part of their krewe and won’t keel-haul you behind their ship. If you’re looking for anything from pantaloons to Spanish doubloons, you can find them at places like Pirate Fashions and Don Me Now, which outfit scalawags and wenches of every type. Never underestimate the power of a painted-on facial scar! Practice your best pirate impersonation at the pre-invasion celebration Jan. 29 in downtown’s Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park.
The pirate armada sails into downtown around 11 a.m. Jan. 28 with cannons firing and Jolly Rogers flying.
The nation’s third-largest parade starts soon after, moving north along Bayshore Boulevard and into downtown with a steady stream of floats and bands and krewes, all of them flinging beads to outstretched hands. If you’re lucky enough to be upfront, share the wealth of José Gaspar with the unlucky devil next to you, lest Davy Jones get ahold of your bones!
The Gasparilla Pirate Festival is just the beginning. The invasion kicks off two solid months of festivals, parades and sports events in Tampa Bay:
- Children’s Gasparilla Extravaganza (Jan. 21), gets the kids into the fun a week before the big parade. A day’s worth of activities culminates in a parade down Bayshore Boulevard complete with pirates and loads of beads.
- Gasparilla Distance Classic race (Feb. 18-19), a set of races that includes a half-marathon, 8K, 5K and 1 Mile fun run. Sign up now to reserve your slot in the crowd, these popular races fill up fast.
- Gasparilla International Film Festival (March 2-10) brings film stars and film buffs to Tampa Bay for a week-long celebration of independent, documentary and short films. The schedule includes nuts-and-bolts sessions on film-making as well.
- Gasparilla Festival of the Arts (March 4-5) brings a juried art exhibition to downtown’s Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park. The talent on display over two days will astound you. Take a piece of original art home.
- Gasparilla Interactive Festival (March 10-11) brings together innovators and thought-leaders from around the country in historic Ybor City to ponder the future of technology and society.
- Gasparilla Music Festival (March 11-12) fills four stages with a mind-blowing collection of band and musical styles. Look for headliners like Seattle’s Modest Mouse, who led the 2015 festival.
- Gasp! The Gasparilla Fringe Festival (April 1) will bring fire-eaters, sidewalk artists and any combination of family-friendly freaks for a day of creativity and artistic endeavors outside the Tampa Museum of Art.