As the story goes, a pirate by the name Jose Gaspar pillaged the ships off of Tampa’s coast during the late 18th and early 19th century. A Spanish nobleman gone wrong, he used a nearby island to house his stolen bounty. The “last of the Buccaneers” is said to have captured and burned 36 ships in his first 12 years as a pirate. In 1821, he was seized by the U.S.S. Enterprise but instead of allowing himself to be captured, he wrapped himself in a heavy chain and threw himself overboard.
Legend or truth, Gaspar’s “invasion” has since been a Tampa tradition. The city’s first “capture” occurred in 1904 and has been recreated nearly every year thereafter. This year is no exception with festivities set to kick off mid-January.
This year’s children’s parade will be held on Saturday, January 19th beginning at 3:30 p.m. Kids will enjoy pirate costumes, face painting, and catching their own loot.
The day parade will be held on Saturday, January 26th with the invasion beginning around 11:30 a.m. and the parade starting around 2 p.m. This more adult-friendly event has many of the same attributes as the children’s parade but with alcoholic beverages being served at various Gasparilla Charity Beer Gardens. In this Mardi Grasesque atmosphere, adults compete for the best beads and bounty on the parade route.
Events are free to the public unless purchasing reserved seating. Make sure to bring your sunscreen, chairs, blankets, and best pirate accent for the best event of the New Year!