Happy Gasparilla, Tampa! It is one of the best times of year for the Bay area as everyone puts on their pirate gear, talks like Captain Jack Sparrow, and makes their way down to South Tampa for our version of Mardi Gras.
For those who are not from the area or just have no idea why everyone does this each year, well, time to read up! Its a tradition that goes all the way back to 1904 when the celebration began. People would dress up in pirate gear, float into the bay, and “take over” the city, all like the famous pirate Jose Gaspar did during his time. Gaspar was reportedly a Spanish pirate that worked his way up and down the Florida coast, living out the pirates dream. Reports are he hid his treasure somewhere on the Florida coast, though its never been found. In reality, there is no history behind Gaspar at all. There is no recorded account of Gaspar anywhere, just a story that was told back in the 19th century and its latched on from there.
While the history is fuzzy at best, the party is real. Thousands gather down Bayshore Boulevard and the surrounding area and drink and party the day away. There is a big parade, the fleet of ships, led by Gaspar’s pirate ship, and his krewe make their way into the city as the Mayor hands over the city to them. The day is filled with beads, parties, and lots of drinking adult beverages. Its one big city-wide party and everyone has a great time. If you have never gone, go! Traffic can be a headache, but just plan for it and go. Not every day you can walk around South Tampa, drink in hand, dressed as a pirate and yell argh! to everyone (and not look crazy).