Pirates invade and make merry this Saturday

click to enlarge Pirates invade and make merry this Saturday - Nicole Abbett
Nicole Abbett
Pirates invade and make merry this Saturday

Right around lunchtime Tuesday, the streets of Downtown Tampa echoed with the sounds of cannons and pirates demanding to see the mayor. When he emerged from the crowd, the bilge-sucking heightened with shouts of “Aaaarrrrgggghhhh!” and “Coward” being thrown about.

“You will not get the key!” Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn retaliated.

Despite the scoundrels' efforts to make off with the key to the city by bribing the immense crowd with beads and booty, Mayor Buckhorn guarded the key, providing protection for our city. The pirates threatened to return on Saturday to claim what they believe belongs to them. Mayor Buckhorn replied, “We will see you on Saturday and you will not get this key!”

“This year we have all kinds of hidden surprises that they don’t know about," he said. "We’ve been doing this for over a hundred years. It’s a big part of Tampa tradition. We love it, we love the invasion, and in spite of how bad they smell, and how bad they look, we’re going to do the best to defend this city.”

The merriment begins before the pirates invade the city and will continue long into the evening. With a parade route just less than 4 miles long, more than 90 floats, 14 marching bands and 50-plus distinct krewes will litter crowds with beads, treasures and doubloons this Saturday.

For visitors and transplants unfamiliar with the tradition, the legendary pirate parade and festival’s name, Gasparilla, is said to be derived from Jose Gaspar, known for terrorizing the coastal waters of West Florida during the late 18th and early 19th centuries. It all began in 1904 when Ye Mystic Krewe of Gasparilla was formed as an organization devoted to broaden creativity in the Tampa community. Gasparilla is America’s and the world’s oldest pirate festival and the third largest parade in the U.S.

The festivities of this year's Gasparilla Parade and Pirate Fest will take place this Saturday, Jan. 25, starting with the legendary invasion of Tampa’s historic, fully-rigged pirate ship, the Jose Gasparilla. The Pirate Fest schedule is as follows:

10 a.m.-10 p.m.: The Gasparilla Pirate Fest Street Festival will again feature stages of live entertainment and food along Florida Avenue, from Kennedy Boulevard to Channelside Drive.

10 a.m.-1 p.m.: Invasion Brunch at the Tampa Convention Center. Blandish Mayor Bob Buckhorn to surrender the key to the city and celebrate Ye Mystic Krewe’s return to Tampa over brunch. Reserved tickets required for adults and children over 2. Tickets can be purchased at gasparillapiratefest.com.

11:30 a.m.-1 p.m.: Amidst the colorful ship and cannon fire, Ye Mystic Crew of Gasparilla will lead the annual re-enactment of Tampa’s historic pirate invasion. Jose Gasparilla will dock at the Tampa Convention Center at 1 p.m., at which time Mayor Bob Buckhorn will surrender the Key to the City of Tampa to the captain of Ye Mystic Krewe.

2 p.m.: To celebrate their victory, Ye Mystic Krewe will launch the Parade of Pirates down Bayshore Boulevard. The parade will end at approximately 5:30 p.m.

5:30 p.m.-10 p.m.: New this year will be the official Gasparilla Pirate Fest after-party, Light up the Night, at Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park (located along Ashley Drive between Madison and Polk). Presented by Captain Morgan and sponsored in part by 93.3 FLZ and Mix 100.7, there will be both pre-parade and post-parade performances by Matt Weis, Southern Train, C’NERGY Band and Daniel B. Marshall, as well as a DJ set from 93.3 FLZ. The night will conclude with a fireworks show. A detailed schedule can be found at gasparillapiratefest.com.

The parade begins at Bay to Bay Boulevard and Bayshore Boulevard. It continues along Bayshore Boulevard to Brorein Street, turns east on Brorein Street, then north on Ashley Drive. The parade ends at Cass Street and Ashley Drive.

This event is free to the public.

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