St. Petersburg Times: Weekend

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It's party time for pirates

[Times files 2000 ]
Ye Mystic Krewe of Gasparilla invades Tampa by way of Hillsborough Bay during Gasparilla.


© St. Petersburg Times, published January 25, 2001

TAMPA -- Gasparilla is to Tampa what Mardi Gras is to New Orleans. It's our time to parade, throw beads, celebrate.

The pirate-themed Gasparilla is a throwback to Jose Gaspar, who reportedly terrorized the waters off the West Coast of Florida in the 18th century. The marchers in Saturday's parade are members of Tampa social clubs known as "krewes." The oldest krewe, Ye Mystic Krewe, began Gasparilla 97 years ago.

Another Tampa ingredient: The invasion from sea to land, which takes place at 1 p.m. Saturday at the Tampa Convention Center, before the parade.

The krewes sail across Hillsborough Bay in party boats and private yachts. Leading them is the Jose Gasparilla, a replica of an 18th century pirate ship. In a short skit that is played out every year on a plank near the Tampa Convention Center, the pirates disembark and snatch the keys of the city from the mayor.

"Give us the keys to the city!" demands a pirate.

"No," says Tampa Mayor Dick Greco.

The pirates wave their swords.

"Okay," says Greco.

"It looks like we lost again," he tells the audience of kids and adults. Soon after, about 1:45 p.m., the parade starts along Bayshore Boulevard.

Parade survival tips

Be prepared for lots of walking -- and standing -- if you don't get there very early with your beach chair.

Wear sunscreen and drink lots of water. You'll be out there for hours.

Cannon blasts are very loud; if such noises upset your children greatly, don't bring them. The same goes for dogs.

Watch small kids closely. We've seen youngsters get knocked to the ground by bigger kids and even adults lunging to catch beads thrown from floats.

But Gasparilla isn't just a parade or a one-day event.

The Pirate Fest carnival runs Friday to Sunday in downtown Tampa with entertainment and a midway. Admission is free.

Saturday includes free performances by K.D. Lang, Richard Marx, Shaggy, K-Ci & Jo Jo and Baha Men, who gave the world Who Let the Dogs Out? Fireworks are scheduled for 10 p.m. from Curtis Hixon Park downtown.

On Sunday, giant screens will be set up at the park to show the big game.

Other differences in Gasparilla this year because of Super Bowl: The parade route, which usually ends on Kennedy Boulevard, will end at Jackson and Marion streets.

MacDill Air Force Base will have an air show at 2 p.m., at the parade's start. F-16s, A-10s, B-52s, Thunderbirds and other jets will fly over. Also, Gasparilla will be broadcast live on the Internet at To help people get to Gasparilla, shuttles will run continuously Saturday from two locations.

From the Florida State Fairgrounds, U.S. 301 at I-4, 9 a.m.-midnight. Drop off is at the Pirate Fest (Franklin and Madison streets). Roundtrip cost is $5. Parking is free at the Fairground's Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard entrance.

From MacDill, which is at the southern end of Dale Mabry Highway, 9 a.m.-8 p.m. Drop off is at Deleon Street near the parade route. Roundtrip is $5. Parking is free at the MacDill Dale Mabry entrance gate.

For those who drive to Gasparilla, parking will be available in downtown garages. Note that streets closest to the parade route will be closed. And be warned: The event attracts tens of thousands even when it's not on Super Bowl weekend.

Gasparilla activities continue during February with the Gasparilla Knight Parade on Feb. 17 and in March with the Gasparilla Art Festival.

For more information, check out or call (813) 353-8108.

[Times file photo]
The krewes travel by boat across Hillsborough Bay, on a mission to seize the keys of Tampa from the beleaguered mayor.



Pirate Fest, downtown Tampa, 5:30-9:30 p.m.

Stage at Curtis Hixon Park:

  • 5:30 p.m. -- WTMP-AM 1150 live broadcast
  • 6 -- Spy vs. Spy (reggae)
  • 7 -- Trey Xcel (R&B)
  • 7:30 -- Marcus Vance (R&B)
  • 8 -- Toni Estes (R&B)
  • 8:30 -- Spy vs. Spy
  • 9 -- Public Announcement (R&B)


Invasion -- Flotilla sails through Hillsborough Bay, starting at 11:30 a.m. Vantage points are Davis Island, Harbour Island and around Tampa Convention Center. Invasion is 1 p.m. at Tampa Convention Center.

Parade -- Begins 1:45 p.m. at Howard Avenue and Bayshore Boulevard. Ends 3 1/2 miles later at 5:30 at Jackson and Marion streets. Military jets from MacDill fly over parade at 2.

Pirate Fest -- downtown Tampa, 10 a.m.-11 p.m.

Stage at Ashley and Madison streets:

  • 5:30 p.m. -- Erica
  • 6 -- Omar
  • 6:30 -- K.D. Lang
  • 7:30 -- Indepth
  • 8 -- Richard Marx

Stage at Curtis Hixon Park:

  • 7 p.m. -- MJ & BJ morning show from WFLZ-FM 93.3, introduces 98 Degrees to randomly choose audience members for backstage meet-and-greet visits
  • 7:35 -- Baha Men
  • 8 -- 98 Degrees chooses backstage winners from crowd
  • 8:20 -- K-Ci & Jo Jo
  • 8:50 -- 98 Degrees chooses backstage winners
  • 9:15 -- Shaggy
  • 10 -- Fireworks


Pirate Fest -- downtown Tampa, 11 a.m.-10 p.m.

Curtis Hixon Park -- Big screens will show Super Bowl XXXV. Coverage begins at 5:30 p.m.

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