By Gabriela Mendez
Gasparilla, a signature event that has been held yearly in Tampa Bay since 1904 was canceled for 2021 with COVID-19 cases rising. Many worry about the economic impact this cancelation will have on the city.
The event usually brings in an estimated $22 million economic growth from the Parade of Pirates alone and grows to become an estimate of $40 million by including the music and art festivals along with other events.
But with Hillsborough County’s Twitter page announcing on March 3 that the number of local cases have reached 111,990 and more than 1,520 deaths reported and with signs of both increasing it pushed the decision to cancel the event.
“The restrictions get tighter and tighter for us to be safe, and at some point the party’s not fun if there’s only two people at it,” said Peter Lackman with Ye Mystic Krewe of Gasparilla for WSTP. “And so our party at Gasparilla is not a two person party. This is a community event. This is an open event.”
This cancelation comes after the city held the Super Bowl 55 and a week of events leading up to the game between Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Kansas Chiefs on Sunday, Feb. 7.
The city used millions for the events including a $160 million in renovation at Raymond James Stadium even after the economic hit the city took because of COVID-19.
To which confused some as to why the city held one event but held off on the other in terms of using them for economic gain.
“I was upset when I heard it was cancelled because I have so many fun memories in Gasparilla but fully understand the city’s decision as we are still in the middle of a pandemic and cases are rising,” said Faviola Baez, University of Tampa junior nursing major.
Gasparilla brings millions of people to the city which help economically and is for many their biggest annual revenue for local vendors, hotels, and restaurants.
Jenn Amato, who was interviewed by WTSP, her family business called Buccaneer Beads, sees about 75% of its annual income through Gasparilla.
“It was devastating. It was devastating for us.” Said Amato to WSTP. “Children’s, then Gasparilla. And then the night parade. You’re talking huge. Huge.”
The city plans to keep its economy stable through still hosting events such as Plant City’ Florida Strawberry Festival and Wrestlemania.
For now the city has stated the parade will be held for 2022.
“Tampa’s economy will recover as more people receive the vaccine and the pandemic wanes,” said Robert Beekman UT associate professor, and chair of Economics. “Government officials will be able to further lift restrictions, and consumers will once again be willing to travel, eat indoors at restaurants, and attend large events. In general Tampa’s economic outlook is strong, we just need to get past this pandemic.”