Only a na’iuml;ve freshman would wake up on Jan. 28, 2006 and think the University of Tampa was under attack. But can you blame me?
What else would it mean when I wake up at 10 a.m. and hear explosions outside my Vaughn Center window?
As the sleep-haze wore off, I realized the pirate ship in the distance was part of the Gasparilla invasion, and the few thousands boats following it were just a bunch of drunks, not an invading army.
And that’s how I met Gasparilla. Three years later, our relationship is different. But that first year set the tone.
Around noon, my friends and I finally rolled out of Vaughn.
‘Come to the big slinky,’ another friend said.
‘The big slinky?’ We answered.
Just trust me, he said. You’ll see it, he promised. So we trekked down Boulevard, past the drunk parents and confused children and into the mass of humanity on Bayshore. I’d heard about Gasparilla, but this was nothing like what I expected.
And so we moved south, searching for the big slinky.
As we were about to lose all faith, we finally saw it. The big slinky. Take a trip down Bayshore, and when you see the big slinky, you’ll do what we all did: ‘Oh. The big slinky!’
The rest of the day is not important.
The next year, I lived off campus. Again, I was woken up with loud banging, but this time it was six of my friends banging on the door telling me the party was at my house. They had their morning drinks, and I had a bowl of cereal. Seriously. There’s even pictures on Facebook.
Then what seemed like a few hundred people showed up. My roommate was unhappy when he returned and found the carpet a mess, but it was nothing a little Rug Doctor couldn’t handle.
I think there was a parade on Bayshore that year, but all I remember is the parade of people in and out of my little house. And the parade of cleaning agents.
So last year, I was determined to make it big. I was going to meet my friends in ResCom at 9 a.m. and away we were going to go.
When we finally got on our way to Bayshore, we stopped about 10 times. Make it 15 times. The problem with traveling in a large group is that if one person sees someone they know, the whole group has to stop. And when you have 30 people, you stop 15 times.
Someone among my friends had the good sense to buy lime green shirts for the lot of us. Anywhere we went at the parade, all we had to do was scan the crowd for lime green, and we were never separated. I guess that’s my form of advice to you this year: wear something that will help you stand out of the crowd, so your friends can find you.
I learned some important things from the last three Gasparillas: wear bright colors, drink lots of water, wear sunscreen, for the love of God, don’t try to steal something from someone, and have no expectations for how the day will go. I am not predicting what will happen this year, but I’m promising a fun time. I just hope it doesn’t rain.