Gasparilla

The invasion of the famous Jose Gaspar pirate ship is quickly approaching. The ship and Ye Mystic Krewe of Gasparilla will enter the city and virtually transform it into a day-long festival of pirate fun.

This pirate foray will occur on Saturday, Feb. 7, beginning with the take over of the Hillsborough River.

At 11:30 a.m. the festivities begin with the first glimpses of the majestic ship.

The day starts with a hearty brunch at the convention center, complete with an up close and personal look at the enticing ship and crew that the festival is ultimately geared around.

Following, the streets of Tampa will experience the next invasion with the annual Parade of the Pirates up Bayshore Boulevard.

This spectacle will be filled with over 130 units, including musical ensembles and elaborate floats.

The theme of this portion of the take over is sharing of the wealth, beads, treasures, and doubloons abound.

The parade continues further downtown on this 3.5 mile trek, all admission is free to the parade at all points along the pirate journey. As evening approaches, the town will prepare for the summit of the activities, the Pirate Festival.

Though it is most attended after the parade, there will be festivities occurring all day. With live music, vendors and plenty of good food, the festival truly offers something for everyone. The fest takes place along Florida Avenue between Kennedy Boulevard and Channelside Drive. The festivities will be plentiful as the pirates invade the city of Tampa.

The festival will be nothing if not eventful and all in the celebration of one man, Jose Gaspar. The ‘last of the buccaneers’ terrorized the sea for 12 years.

He had an unexpected start; born with aristocratic taste, as a Lieutenant in the Spanish Royal Army, he was never satisfied. He commandeered his own ship and began a life of adventure on the Sea.

Jose Gaspar coined the name ‘Gasparilla’ for himself as he assumed his new identity. A major power of the seas for part of the 18th and 19th centuries, according to his diary, he seized 36 ships in total, gathering a loyal crew and banishing many to the depths of the ocean.

As the lifestyle grew weary, Gasparilla convinced his crew to split their fortunes and embark on new journeys of their own. His yearning for adventure hadn’t fled him completely yet.

In a final scheme, the crew preyed on a distant merchant ship that seemed a simple battle. The merchant ship was in fact a United States Naval ship in disguise. As the battle grew bloody, and the ship seemed to disintegrate from beneath them, wrapped in chains, Gasparilla sent himself to the depths.

The event traditionally has been held during the last Saturday in January, however, with the Super Bowl providing a grand enough invasions, the festivities will be held the following week, with no less spirit. Ye Mystic Krew Gasparilla invade this year over 700 pirates deep.

Decorative floats for the artist, live music for the musician, festive ambiance for the partier, and an ever-expanding crew for the aspiring pirate.

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