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Pirate parade should hook bigger crowd

By CHRISTOPHER GOFFARD

© St. Petersburg Times, published January 27, 2001


TAMPA -- For those who haven't heard, the pirate hordes descend on Tampa today.

Starting at 11:30 a.m., when the Gasparilla pirate flotilla sets off down Hillsborough Bay, hundreds of howling, snarling, paint-slathered, brigand celebrators will enact the city's humble -- but raucous -- answer to Mardi Gras.

With the Gasparilla Pirate Fest parade scheduled to coincide with the Super Bowl this year, thousands of out-of-town guests are expected to ratchet up that raucousness.

Even for football fans who never heard of the pirate parade before setting foot in Tampa, it's hard to escape the buzz. If visitors don't discover Gasparilla in the tourist brochures at the airport, they're likely to see the pirate beads jangling on necks at Super Bowl events.

Plenty of those beads were on display in the crowds at the NFL Experience theme park Friday. Terry Delbello, 53, of Redington Shores, wore skull-and-crossbones beads she got in New Orleans, and which she planned to wear to Gasparilla.

"I'm not lifting my shirt," she said, referring to the custom, which is discouraged by police, of baring flesh to acquire beads.

Bill Winnett and his wife, Colleen, a Tampa couple, have attended the parade for years. Winnett said they were wearing beads they got in previous years "just to start the celebration."

Bob Cunningham, 55, drove to Tampa from Long Island hoping to score tickets to the Super Bowl. He's still trying. He hopes to attend the pirate parade.

"If I don't make it this year, I'll definitely make it next year just for that," Cunningham said.

The parade starts at 1:45 p.m. at Howard Avenue and Bayshore Boulevard and wends its way for 31/2 miles to Jackson and Marion streets.

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