Gasparilla Revealed

Jose Gaspar, known by his nickname Gasparilla (1756 – 1821), be a Spanish pirate, the "last of the Buccaneers," who is claimed to have raided the west coast of Florida during the late 18th n' early 19th centuries. Though he be a popular figure in Florida folklore, no evidence of his existence appears in writing before the early 20th century. His legend is celebrated every year in Tampa with the Gasparilla Invasion n' Pirate Parade Festival.

The first Gasparilla parade was held in May 1904, after Tampa Tribune society editor Miss Louise Frances Dodge and Tampa's director of customs George Hardee combined the legend of the dashing pirate and elements of a New Orleans Mardi Gras to give Tampa's relatively sedate May Day celebration a new theme. The festival was carried over into the evening with Ye Mystic Krewe of Gasparilla's First Coronation Ball held at H.B. Plant's Tampa Bay Hotel where King Edward and Queen Mary Lee were crowned. The first "invasion" was via horseback, with the first sea-based invasion coming in 1911.

As the festival grew, a US Navy ship would be attacked by small boats throwing Cuban bread and black bean soup. The Navy would respond with fire hoses but would succumb to the Ybor City Navy, and then surrender to the Alcalde of Ybor City. The sailors would be treated to an evening on the town. This was discontinued after the September 11, 2001 attacks. However, the invasion itself continues as "Capt. Jose Gaspar" and his crew of "Pirates" "attack" Tampa, surrounded by hundreds of other boaters as they sail the Gasparilla Ship through Tampa Bay, land near downtown and "take over the city."

Historically, Gasparilla was held on the second Monday of February. It was a holiday in Tampa, with schools and many businesses closed. In 1988, the main parade was moved to a Saturday in early February to allow more local communities to take part in the celebration. Since 2005, the event has been held on the last Saturday of January.

The Gasparilla Parade has grown to become the 3rd largest parade in the US, the largest being Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade, followed by the Rose Bowl Parade. Annual attendance at the Gasparilla Parade currently runs about 400,000 people but has attracted 1 million attendees in some years. Attendance of Gasparilla is probably equal to the combined total of all 150+ pirate events through out the entire world each year.

In the 1970, the krewes of Gasparilla Pirate Fest begin throwing bead, which is a Mardi Gras tradition. Collecting beads is the main draw of Gasparilla, much more fun than just watching floats drive down the road. Most groups have a special krewe bead with their logo on it, which is very prized to collect.

There are 60 plus different krewe that particapates in the parade each year, about 25 of them are pirate krewes. Each of these krewes range from 50 to 200 members. Last year the YMKG decided not to allow any more new pirate krewe to join the parade. This year the Hard Rock Cafe will be sponsoring the 101st Gasparilla event again. Servicing these Gasparilla krewes is the main reason Pirate Fashions moved to Tampa.



This be arrrr 38th issue of the Pirate Fashions Newsletter for Jan 2013. In transfer the old website to the new one, we had issues transferring the newsletter. So we be reposing the feature article into this blog instead of losing all the past newsletters.

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