Gasparilla Expectations vs. Reality

By Daniela Garcia

Every year when the springtime creeps around the corner and the month of January is slowly coming to an end, the citizens of Tampa Bay dust their hooks, shine their boots, change their eye patches and prepare for the celebration of Gasparilla.

Gasparilla began in the year 1904 and consists of reliving the invasion of the famed pirate Jose Gaspar. Even though there is no clear evidence about his existence, he is known for traveling the Gulf of Mexico and the Floridian coasts.

Coming to the city of Tampa as a student brings the perk of being on the site for the parade, bringing with it a list of several expectations and realities for the first time attending it. 

Due to an entire two-year wait because of the COVID-19 pandemic, many of the students at The University of Tampa that had never been to Gasparilla before were filled with both uncertainty and excitement, wondering if the event would fulfill their long-awaited expectations.

Expectations vs Realities:

  1. Expectation: The parade is actually a big deal

When hearing about Gasparilla you expect the parade to be the only big activity you will partake in during Gaspy. However, the parade is not always the preferred activity for college students in the area. 

“When I first heard about the event, I always thought there would be more to the actual parade. The way it was described to me painted a picture of the parade being something compared to a Disney theme park,” said Carmen Zurita, sophomore marketing major.

Instead of being the main event, the parade is extremely crowded and is often skipped by college students. For UT students, Gasparilla is for walking around the city, attending house or frat parties, and simply dressing up. 

  1. Expectation: There are other activities aside from partying

Another misconception about Gasparilla is the alternate activities available during the day.

“The parade seemed to be the only thing going on, there was nothing else being advertised around town. I expected other things to be going on that had to do with the pirate theme,” said Cynthia Soto, freshman elementary education major. 

Instead of having other activities available in the city, everyone is expected to do what they want with their friend groups. People usually throw parties in their homes and apartments and spread the word to others because of the lack of alternate activities around the city. 

Even if there are other activities around the city they are not advertised enough and missed by the public, which allows for other plans to come through.

  1. Expectation: People won’t take the pirate theme seriously 

People usually lose interest in dressing up in costumes for events when growing older. For this reason, people new to Gasparilla are quick to assume that the residents of Tampa Bay take dressing up for Gasparilla seriously.

“I never took costumes seriously after the age of 14, maybe 15, so when Gasparilla was going on I thought people would just dress in their normal clothing and maybe accessorize,” said Juan Pablo Echeverry, junior business and entrepreneurship major. “I was terribly wrong, people of all ages went all out in their pirate costumes with props and all.” 

  1. Expectation: People won’t wake up and party when the parade starts

Waking up extremely early can be a burden for many, regardless of what might happen that day. For this reason, some first-timers were thinking that the festivities began when the parade did.

“We woke up at 6 a.m. to get ready and go out to walk around. I wasn’t expecting to be up so early because I expected the parade to be the main event,” said Soto. “We ended up partying in houses for the entire day and going to the parade for only half an hour.”

Even though some first-time parade-goers had expectations that may not have been met, the event did not disappoint and added an exciting start to the semester and an epic ending for the month of January.

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