A tried-and-true Tampa Bay tradition, the Gasparilla Pirate Fest draws hundreds of thousands of locals to Bayshore Boulevard for a day of bead diving, beer drinking and general uninhibited carousing. Sure, we're honoring a notorious villain who may or may not have really existed, but who cares? Jose Gaspar gives us an excuse to let loose.
The following is a guide to the fest and all its related events, which occur this Sat., Jan. 26.
Fest attendees interested in claiming the best view of the invasion are invited to the official Gasparilla Invasion Brunch. The ticket price includes reserved seating along the Riverwalk at Tampa Convention Center, an ample brunch buffet, a cash bar and live entertainment. 10 a.m.-1 p.m., 333 S. Franklin St., Tampa, $55 adults/$45 ages 3-12; children two and younger are admitted for free.
The festivities begin at 11:30 a.m. when the fully-rigged, cannon-firing pirate ship otherwise known as the Jose Gasparilla sails into Hillsborough Bay, a throng of pleasure crafts following in hot pursuit. The flotilla makes its way across the Bay and into Seddon Channel (toward downtown Tampa), docks at the Tampa Convention Center by 1 p.m., and the Captain of Ye Mystic Krewe of Gasparilla claims the key to the City of Tampa shortly after.
Parade of Pirates
After invading Tampa, Ye Mystic Krewe pirates fall into step behind the Gasparilla Parade, which features more than 90 colorful floats, 14 marching bands and 50 other participating Krewes. All toss an abundance of beads and coins to the crowd situated along the 4-mile parade route. The route begins at the intersection of Bayshore and Bay to Bay boulevards, proceeds north on Bayshore into downtown Tampa, turns east on the Platt Street Bridge, continues east on Channelside Drive, turns north on Florida Avenue to Jackson Street, then turns east on Jackson, disbanding at Jackson and Marion streets. 2 p.m.-5:30 p.m., free admission ($24 reserved bleacher seating).
Pirate Fest Street Festival
Throughout the day, downtown Tampa hosts a street festival along Florida Avenue from Kennedy Boulevard to Channelside Drive. The festivities — a slew of food vendors, three stages of live music and a Gasparilla Midway of games, rides and amusements — begins before the invasion and continues long after the parade concludes. The following is a schedule of performers:
Bayshore Boulevard and Platt Street (Publix supermarket parking lot)
10 a.m. Navy Band Southeast Jazz
11:30 a.m. Rhythm Method
1 and 5:30 p.m. SkyCoasters
Pirate Fest Stage
Florida Avenue and Brorein Street
10:30 a.m. Schilter
1:30 p.m. Basic Rock Outfit
5:45 p.m. Highway to Hell
7:45 p.m. Fuel
City Center Stage
Florida Avenue and Kennedy Boulevard
1 p.m. DJ Speedy JR
5:45 p.m. El Fantazma
7:15 p.m. Eddie Marcos
For more info, visit gasparillapiratefest.com, or call 813-353-8108.