The sound of cannons firing into the Bay. The pirates hanging off the masts of the Jose Gaspar Pirate Ship. The smell of rum in the air.The eye patches and shoulder parrots. The sight of beads flailing through the sky to eager spectators along Bayshore Boulevard.
It's Gasparilla time in Tampa Bay.
Gasparilla is an annual tradition in the city of Tampa. It began in 1904 to "commemorate" the legendary pirate, Jose Gaspar, who terrorized the coastal waters of West Florida during the late 18th century. Gaspar, given to calling himself "Gasparilla," served as a lieutenant in the Royal Spanish Navy for five years until 1783 when, upon seizing command of a Spanish sloop-of-war, he with his fellow mutineers set sail for the Florida straits. And so the young Spanish aristocrat-turned-pirate began an adventurous life as an infamous outlaw of the sea.
When Jose Gaspar died, he supposedly left an untold fortune in buried treasure somewhere along the Florida coast. Though that treasure has never been discovered, the story of the swashbuckling Gasparilla was unearthed and his memory revived in 1904 when Tampa's social and civic leaders adopted the pirate as patron rogue of a city-wide celebration.
Secret meetings gave birth to the first "Ye Mystic Krewe of Gasparilla," who planned to surprise the city with a mock pirate attack on Tampa. Masked and fully-costumed, the first krewe arrived on horseback and "captured the city" during the Festival Parade.
Present day Tampa, The Ye Mystic Krewe of Gasparilla arrives in Tampa Bay aboard the Jose Gasparilla, a 165' pirate ship, firing off their cannons and waiving their swords in the air.
Here's a video I took last year, to give you an idea:
After the pirates invade, the krewe jumps off the ship, "captures" the mayor, and steals the key to the city.
With the key in their grasp, the pirates launch their victory celebration and the Parade of Pirates ensues down Bayshore Blvd to an attendance of over 400,000 of your closest friends.
The parade has floats including over 50 krewes along with other local celebrities, charities, and organizations. They're all dressed as pirates, and all of them are throwing beads - think Mardi Gras, with a pirate twist.
I am beside myself that my entire family is coming down to participate in all the pillaging this weekend!
Other than Gasparilla, there will be beach time, boat time, and an NHL game thrown in for good measure.
Also as the cherry on top, G. Love & Special Sauce is coming to St Pete on Friday night. His concerts are always epic, and with our crew of about 12 people, it's gonna be ridiculous how much fun we'll have.
Check out his funky blues music here.
This is sure to be a weekend for the record books, y'all.
See you on the high seas!
Continued here: Gasparilla Weekend Rewind