It is Gasparilla time again! For those of you who do not know the legend, here it is:
Jose Gaspar was born in Spain in the year 1756. He was supposedly a courtier in the Spanish court for King Charles III. Having been falsely accused of attempting to steal the crown jewels, he fled in his boat and vowed vengeance on all of Spain! To do this, he sailed up and down the west coast of Florida and attacked any Spanish ship he came across. He amassed a great deal of loot and hid it on Gasparilla Island, near Port Charlotte.
Whenever he captured a vessel, the males on board would either be put to death, or pressed into service under his rule. The females, however, would be taken captive and secured on Captiva Island until their ransom was paid.
As all good pirates are want to do, he wanted one last glorious battle and spied a British trader and attacked. It was, however, an American pirate hunter in disguise, the USS Enterprise, and his ship was blasted with canon balls. Rather than be taken hostage, he tied the anchor around his waist, and jumped overboard.
The current Gasparilla festivities in Tampa, originate from a guy by the name of John Gomez, who died in int very early 20th century in SW florida. He claims to have been a pirate under Jose Gasparilla. He wrote his story as entertainment for the hotel guests at Boca Grande, a community on Gasparilla Island. In 1904, Ye Mystic Krewe of Gasparilla in Tampa was formed. They donned pirate costumes and rode around Tampa on horseback. People loved this so much that the next year they decided to to have a parade and included all of the cars that were in Tampa at that time, 60. From these humble beginnings, the celebration has gown into a 20 million dollar infusion of cash into Tampa’s economy and an estimated 400,000 people attending the parade. At the very beginning of the season, the pirates attempt to get the Key to the city from the Mayor, who refuses. This angers the pirates and they vow to come in force and take it. On the big day, the sail into Tampa Bay on the Jose Gaspar, and head towards the city. The locals, determined to protect their city, head out, en masse, via boat to turn the pirates away. Instead, they all, to a man, join up with the pirates and become an escort for the Jose Gaspar, and bring it to port. The Pirates then take the Mayor captive, do a little brunch, then head down to Ballast Point, and start a parade up Bayshore towards downtown.
The Gasparilla Season starts with the Children’s Parade, followed by the main parade the next weekend. The Children’s parade is supposed to be an answer for all of the fretting parents who don’t want their innocent ones to witness the debauchery of the main parade. However, every year someone brings their little tykes to the main parade and complain how the event should be more family friendly. It is, they were just a week late.
The next item in the season is the Sant’Yago Illuminated Knight parade which winds through Ybor. This is my personal favorite! The floats are very close, and the building prevent a build up of more that 4-5 people deep along the route. It is also only about 2 hours long, not 5.
Gasparilla is very unique to Tampa and is cause for celebrating for a couple of months after the high holidays of November and December have come and gone. There are several events other than the parades: Gasparilla Festival of the Arts, Gasparilla Music Festival, and the Gasparilla Distance Classic, a two day running event with a 5k, 8K, 10K, 15K,
and half marathon. For some reason, I did not take a lot of pictures this year, but below are some things that I made to eat, as well as some really good cupcakes that a friend of ours, Angel, made for the Children’s Parade firework watching party hosted by Scott.