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100 Years of Pirate Invasions (Rich Media - Video - Sounds - Images)   PDF  Print  E-mail 
Arts & Festivals
100 Years...
Renalda Charles

February is a special month for the city of Tampa Florida when the Gasparilla Pirate Festival is celebrated!

Decorated ships and boats gather in an invasion flotilla. Pillaging pirates shoot booming cannons, and masses of men, women and children congregate to catch sparkling beads, doubloons and novelties that are tossed to them by the fierce pirates. An annual event, the Gasparilla Festival consumes the community. 2004 marks the Centennial celebration of this historic event.

 Since 1904, the invasion has matured into a month long event. It includes a Gasparilla Distance Classic, with a 5k and 15k distances marathon, a Children's Gasparilla Parade, and the Gasparilla "Piratechnic" Extravaganza. The latter is a giant firework display over Tampa's Hillsborough Bay meant to mimic the sea battle between pirates and the city. 

The Gasparilla Pirate Festival boasts the most visitors of any event held by the city of Tampa. It begins with the Jose Gasparilla, the world's only fully rigged pirate ship, sailing into downtown Tampa. Ye Mystic Krewe of Gasparilla (YMKG) with its 700 plus members take up every inch the vessel. Atop the 100-foot tall, 3 steel masts cling pirates anxious to invade Tampa. Appearing over the horizon puffs of smoke trail from the ship as multiple cannons fire at the city. Once the ship docks, the pirates invade Tampa Bay, pillaging and plundering the city and spreading mayhem and chaos!

Traditionally the mayor is kidnapped and surrenders the Key to the City

Rich Media Report:
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to the Captain. The Mayor of Tampa, Pam Iorio, was this year's victim. When asked if she had seen Gaspar, Iorio stated she was in good hands with the pirate and was well taken care of. 

Pirates, maidens, floats and cars, among others then assemble on Bayshore Blvd for the traditional victory parade. This year, The Gasparilla parade was 3.5 miles long and included over 30 Krewes, 14 bands, and nearly 100 floats. An average of over 400,000 citizens and visitors turnout to watch the parade and the world's largest outdoor Pirate Festival.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers' float is popular and the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, Tampa Bay Lightning, and New York Yankees' are other notable floats in the parade this year.

As assorted as the floats and Krewes are the costumes adorning the participants. For the 2004 celebration, Commemorative Gasparilla Centennial necklaces and coins were created. The special emblems boasted 100 years of Gasparilla. Beads with flags and other pendants were crowd favorites.

Pirates are not all that make up the Gasparilla parade. Maidens, troupers, and the beloved Rough Riders also walk the parade. The Krewe of Antiquitas is historically based. For example, instead of pirates, they dress up as historically legendary figures. Bustiers, kilts, tights, dresses, and armor were a few of the Gasparilla fashions this year.

Jose Gaspar's lives on as the spirit of Gasparilla. His spirit gives joy of life to the Gasparilla Pirate Festival and to all the people who come to Tampa during this special time of the year. -ArtsyStuff Magazine