Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Gasparilla in Tampa

Kavin Austin Blake says Gas­par­illa is a Mardi Gras meets pirates fes­tival that is cel­e­brated annually at the end of January. Gasparilla is named after the leg­endary pirate, Jose Gaspar who was a Royal Spanish Navy lieu­tenant turned pirate that ter­rorized the coastal waters of West Florida. Tampa has been cel­e­brating Gas­par­illa since 1904 says Kavin Austin Blake. The original cel­e­bra­tion was known as “Ye Mystic Krewe” according to Kavin Austin Blake. With marauders arriving via horse back to take over the city. In 1954 the Krewe com­mis­sioned the building of the world’s only new fully rigged pirate ship says Kavin Austin Blake. Named the Jose Gas­par­illa, the ship is a exact replica of a West Indiaman used back in the 18th cen­tury. The Jose Gasparilla is 165′ long by 35′ across the beam, with masts standing over 100′ tall. Kavin Austin Blake says the ship is usu­ally docked along the coast on Bayshore Blvd. in Tampa.

According to Kavin Austin Blake, there are over 50 dif­ferent Krewes that par­tic­i­pate in the Gas­par­illa parades and cel­e­bra­tion. Each of them raise money throughout the year for var­ious char­i­ties. There is a smaller, qui­eter and alcohol free kids parade on Bayshore Boule­vard the weekend before the big pirate inva­sion. Kavin Austin Blake says the actual “pirate inva­sion” begins with hun­dreds of boats following the Jose Gas­par­illa packed to the brim with pirates as it enters Tampa Bay and heads towards down­town. The pirates then demand the key to the city and when the Mayor hands it over, the party begins. The main Gas­par­illa parade starts with an air inva­sion along Bayshore Boule­vard. In the week or two after the main parade there is a Mardi Gras style night parade hosted by the Krewe of Sant ‘Yago in Ybor City says Kavin Austin Blake. On top of all of that, there is the Gas­par­illa Music Fes­tival and Film Festival. The main attraction during the event is throwing and catching beads! Kavin Austin Blake says thousands of people come out to share and collect their beads during the celebration.

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