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Yo, ho, ho! Invading they will g

A tough band of ruthless pirates will lay siege to Tampa on Saturday. After a brief but spirited defense, the city is expected to surrender and get on with the fun of capture.

By PATTY RYAN, Times Staff Writer

© St. Petersburg Times, published January 31, 2002


A tough band of ruthless pirates will lay siege to Tampa on Saturday. After a brief but spirited defense, the city is expected to surrender and get on with the fun of capture.

TAMPA -- Lock up the virgins. Hide the jewels.

Gasparilla pirates make Tampa their own on Saturday, taming the masses with free music and glittering beads before depleting the city's liquor supply and melting into a mound of mayhem.

The pirate invasion and parade get top billing in a PG-rated street festival promoted as one of the nation's largest, with 85 floats and 14 marching bands.

New this year: 20 to 30 New York City firefighters are expected to take part in Tampa's parade, along with their families.

More than two dozen krewes plan to ride floats, horses and automobiles for the annual crawl along Bayshore Boulevard into downtown Tampa, where four stages offer daylong entertainment.

Organizers brace for 400,000 spectators -- and what will seem to be at least 400-billion cars.

Some will watch the parade from corporate party tents, others from their parents' shoulders.

Some will bare breasts for beads. Others will show off their diapers.

"I think it's a great way to bring the community together," says Rick Gaspar, who moved to Tampa as a teenager 22 years ago and quickly learned that his name was magic. His gym coach at East Bay High School once dubbed him Jose.

These days, Gaspar, 37, teaches reading and language arts at Hillsborough Community College in Ybor City, where he keeps a Jose Gaspar poster on his office door.

Jose Gaspar, as legend has it, was a Spanish pirate who terrorized the coastal waters of West Florida during the 18th and 19th centuries. He defected from the Royal Spanish Navy in 1783 and became an outlaw of the sea.

Rick Gaspar, descendent of an apparently unrelated Gaspar from the Azores, near Portugal, promises he has little desire to plunder and pillage, at least not since college days.

"Celebrating a supposed Spanish naval officer who went bad probably isn't the best position for Tampa to take," he says, but he adds, "We look at it as a philanthropic adventure."

He recently joined the Columbus Celebration of Tampa, which sponsors a float in the parade. The Columbus krewe is one of 27 recognized by parade organizers.

Others include Ye Loyal Krewe of Grace O'Malley, the Unsinkable Krewe of Molly Brown, the Krewe of Mambi, the Crewe of Bobbie C. Davis, the Krewe of Hillsborough, the Krewe of the Caribbean Cowboys, the Krewe of Buffalo Soldiers, the Krewe of Zingaro, the Krewe of Agustina de Aragon, the Krewe of Pair O'Dice, the Bonney-Read Krewe, Ye Mystic Airkrewe, the Krewe of Fort Brooke, the Grand Krewe de Libertalia, Ladies of the Crown, the Krewe of Cavaliers, Ye Mystic Krewe of Neptune, Rough Riders, the Anna Maria Island Privateers, the Krewe of the Knights of Sant' Yago, the Royal Order of the Ponce de Leon Conquistadors, the Krewe of Venus, the Gaucho Association of Tampa, the Latin American Fiesta Association, the Crewe of the Hernando de Soto Historical Society and Ye Mystic Krewe of Gasparilla.

Saturday's parade is scheduled to begin at 1:45 p.m., with a U.S. Air Force flyover at 2.

Want to avoid the traffic snarls? HARTline, the city's bus service, plans to offer shuttle service from the Florida State Fairgrounds to Madison and Franklin streets in downtown Tampa. The cost is $5 a person, round trip. Shuttles are expected to operate from 9 a.m. until midnight.

Or, you can watch from afar. WFLA-Ch. 8 plans to broadcast the parade live, beginning at 2 p.m.

Gasparilla season kicked off last week with a children's parade called First Watch, and it continues Feb. 16 with the Krewe of Sant' Yago Knight Parade.

For more information, visit the event's Web site at www.gasparillapiratefest.com.

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SATURDAY'S EVENTS

Gasparilla Invasion Brunch, 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. (doors open at 9:30 a.m.), at the Tampa Convention Center, 333 S Franklin St. Adults, $48; children, $38. Call (813) 353-8108

Gasparilla Flotilla, 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Vessels meet at the south end of Hillsborough Bay and sail north to Seddon Channel (between Davis Islands and Harbour Island). The Jose Gasparilla docks at the Tampa Convention Center about 1 p.m. Free admission.

Gasparilla Parade, 1:45 to 5 p.m., beginning on Bayshore Boulevard, near Howard Avenue, 2 miles south of downtown Tampa. It rolls north toward downtown, turns east on Platt Street, continues east on Channelside Drive, jogs north on Florida Avenue to Jackson Street, then goes east on Jackson before ending at Marion Street. Free general admission; reserved seats sold out.

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PIRATE FEST ENTERTAINMENT

Curtis Hixon Park Stage

Ashley and Zack streets

10 a.m. to 6 p.m. -- Radio station music and personalities

6 to 6:30 p.m. -- DJ Structure

6:30 to 6:45 -- China Dolls

7 to 7:45 -- Mpress 8 to 8:15 -- Toya

8:30 to 8:50 -- City High

9:20 to 10 -- Uncle Kracker

Ashley Stage

Ashley and Madison streets

10 a.m. to 5 p.m. -- Radio station music and personalities

5 to 5:30 p.m. -- Dreamtime

6 to 6:20 -- Transmatic

6:45 to 7:45 -- John Mayer

8:15 to 9:30 -- Better than Ezra

Gasparilla Invasion Stage

Bayshore Boulevard and Platt Street

10 a.m. to noon -- Radio station music and personalities

Noon to 2 p.m. -- The Bush Hounds

2 to 4 -- Radio station music and personalities

4 to 4:45 Supernatural

5 to 6:15 -- The Wholigans

Gasparilla Super Tailgate Party

Florida Avenue and Brorein Street

10 a.m. to 5 p.m. -- Radio station music and personalities

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