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Gasparilla yields date to Super Bowl

By JANET ZINK
Published May 27, 2004

TAMPA - The Super Bowl once again is wielding its power over the Gasparilla Pirate Fest.

Because the National Football League has moved the Super Bowl to the first weekend in February, Tampa's huge civic celebration is being switched to the last weekend in January.

The Gasparilla invasion and parade are set for Jan. 29, 2005. They have been held the first weekend in February since 1989.

Event organizers said Wednesday they made the switch to accommodate sponsors who want to be involved with both events. Southwest Airlines, for example, is the official airline of the NFL and the title sponsor for Gasparilla.

"We've been blessed to have great sponsors, and we didn't want to put them in a situation where they would have to split their assets and time over a weekend," said Jim Tarbet, executive director of Ye Mystic Krewe of Gasparilla, which has hosted the pirate fest since 1904.

Starting with the 2003-04 schedule, the NFL delayed the start of football season one week to keep it from opening on Labor Day weekend while still permitting a two-week gap between conference finals and the Super Bowl.

But Super Sunday this year fell on Feb. 1, and Gasparilla was able to happen as usual on the month's first Saturday, which wasn't until the following weekend.

Beginning in 2005, the two events will occur on the same weekend.

"It's hard to compete on a level playing field with the Super Bowl annually," said Darrell Stefany, president of Eventmakers, which organizes several Gasparilla-related events.

Tarbet said the parade might be moved back to its traditional date if the Super Bowl is rescheduled again. "But right now, it's indefinite," he said.

Stefany said Gasparilla's organizers considered holding the pirate fest in late February, but that conflicted with the Daytona 500, which would also cause competition for sponsorships.

It's not the first time the Super Bowl has prompted schedule changes for Gasparilla.

In 1991, when the Super Bowl was held in Tampa, Ye Mystic Krewe at first moved the date of the event to merge with football festivities. Then a controversy flared over the krewe's membership, which at the time was all white, and the krewe canceled the pirate fest. In 2001, when Tampa again hosted the Super Bowl, Gasparilla was moved to coincide with the game.

Gasparilla, Stefany said, has attracted visitors from around America and overseas since 1984, when it was moved from Monday to Saturday. The new date, he said, will remain appealing.

"Late January in Tampa, Florida is a great place to be," Stefany said. "It's snowing in the rest of the country."

The new schedule means the Gasparilla Children's Parade will be moved to the third weekend in January. The Krewe of Sant' Yago has not firmed up a date for its afterdark Knight Parade, said Eventmakers spokesman Tim Ross. That parade is typically two or three weeks after the Gasparilla Pirate Fest.

Gasparilla's organizers and sponsors are not the only people relieved by the schedule change. Some of the pirates are, too.

Stephen Beachy, who marches in the parade every year with the Krewe of Mambi, said he's glad he doesn't have to worry about enjoying Super Bowl Sunday the day after Gasparilla, which is known to be a day of indulgence.

"There's still recuperating going on on Sunday," he said.

PARADE SHUFFLE

GASPARILLA PIRATE FEST: Jan. 29, 2005, rescheduled from the first weekend in February.

GASPARILLA CHILDREN'S PARADE: third weekend in January.

SANT' YAGO KNIGHT PARADE: Date undetermined. Usually two to three weeks after the Gasparilla invasion and parade.

[Last modified May 27, 2004, 01:01:27]


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