This year, the mayor wins

A new public party will have Gasparilla's pirates returning the keys to the city.

By ALEXANDRA ZAYAS, Times Staff Writer
Published January 11, 2008

TAMPA - The ever-growing Gasparilla season, and the bundle of festivities associated with it, will expand once more.

This year, Ye Mystic Krewe of Gasparilla will add a public party at the Channelside entertainment complex on Feb. 9, two weeks after the trademark Gasparilla pirate invasion and parade along Bayshore Boulevard.

Their latest excuse to party: The mayor will take back the city and expel the pirates, triggering a flurry of cannon fire and pyrotechnics. It's actually the revival of a tradition not seen in Tampa since 1963.

They call it the Gasparilla Triumphant March and Outbound Voyage. The Krewe will dock the Jose Gasparillaat the wharf at the Tampa cruise ship terminals about 4:45 p.m. Feb. 9, and pirates will march from the Florida Aquarium to Channelside, organizers say.

After an hour or two of revelry, Mayor Pam Iorio will demand the pirates return the key to the city. Then, she'll order them to get out of Tampa.

"Out!" Iorio said Thursday - she's been practicing.

The pirates will then march onto their ship and sail off to their next event, a private party at the Tampa Yacht Club. Cannons staged on Channelside's roof will fire, and fireworks will begin.

"It's going to be the full nine yards, baby," said Guy Revelle, owner of Splitsville, Stumps Supper Club, Howl at the Moon and Tinatapas, all at Channelside. "The place is going to be totally decorated to the hilt."

At Channelside, music and daylong activities will start at noon that Saturday and continue into the night with DJs and bands after the pirates sail off.

At the Florida Aquarium, kids 12 years old and younger dressed as pirates will get in free all day.

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The event brings a change in the traditional Gasparilla season schedule, revolving around the big parade and invasion Jan. 26. The Sant'Yago Illuminated Knight Parade in Ybor City will take place Feb. 16, a week later than usual.

"That's the reason they're having this event," said Bill Terry, parade organizer for the Krewe of the Knights of Sant'Yago.

The city asked Sant'Yago to move its parade back a week, not to conflict with the Gasparilla Distance Classic, which required the Tampa Convention Center and could have it only on Feb. 9.

Ye Mystic Krewe, the exclusive club that puts on Gasparilla, had already planned its private party at the Tampa Yacht Club for Feb. 9, after the Ybor City parade. Unable to move the party back a week because of a wedding scheduled at the Yacht Club, it kept its party on Feb. 9.

Jim Tarbet, executive director of Ye Mystic Krewe, said the group has been wanting to reinstitute the Outbound Voyage for the past three years.

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The newest event follows a recent pattern of beefing up Gasparilla-related celebrations over a span of weeks. The Children's Gasparilla Parade, for example, is now part of the Gasparilla Extravaganza on Jan. 19. It draws bigger crowds and features a huge fireworks display.

Tarbet said if the Outbound Voyage is popular enough, it will become an annual event.

"We're excited to bring it back," he said.

Iorio is excited, too.

"I'm happy to take the city back," she said. "I always ended up with the city back anyway."

Times staff writers Janet Zink andAmy Scherzer contributed to this report. Alexandra Zayas can be reached at (813) 226-3354.