BY KATHERINE LAVACCA
The most wonderful time of the year is upon Tampa Bay. Gasparilla season will kick off this Saturday with the invasion at 11:30 a.m., which features the world’s only fully-rigged pirate ship: the Jose Gasparilla. The ship usually docked on Bayshore is named after the mythical pirate who supposedly marauded Florida’s southwest coast in the 1700’s. While there’s some speculation as how this scurvy character turned to piracy, or if he even existed, one thing everyone can agree on is that staggering through the pristine streets of South Tampa for beads is totally worth it.
After the pirates of Ye Mystic Krewe of Gasparilla have secured the keys to the city, they take to their land legs at 2:00 p.m. and walk the 3.8 mile route along Bayshore in the Parade of Pirates. If you want a good spot along the barricades try to get to your spot an hour early, bring folding chair and set up camp. While there are some restrictions on areas you can carry an open container, there’s no limit as to how much space you take up. A cooler full of your favorite booze and water can also serve as a way to keep sweaty parade-goers from rubbing against you while diving for beads. Be warned if this is your first Gasparilla, people do get very aggressive when it comes to catching beads. Everyone loves a bit of pirate booty. Don’t be afraid to elbow your way to the front or jump over smaller persons for the perfect strand of oversized pearls.
Once you’ve made it back home don’t toss your pirate garb too far back in the closet. There are plenty of events that take place following the initial invasion that call for feathers and swagger.
February 13, 7 p.m. Ybor City
Knights of Sant’Yago Parade
Watch illuminated floates, marching bands, and a crew of merry misfits take the streets of Ybor City. The parade route starts at Nuccio Parkway and ends on 22nd Ave. This parade is significantly shorter than the Parade of Pirates, but Ybor will be bustling with pirates, scallywags, and general merry-makers well into the night.
March 5-6, All day– Curtis Hixon
Gasparilla Festival of the Arts
Celebrate all forms of art at the 46th annual art festival. Both local and national artists come together featuring ceramic, digital, photographic, wood and painted works of art. Tickets can be bought at gasparilla-arts.com and volunteer positions are open.
March 12-13, All day– Curtis Hixon
Gasparilla Music Festival
Live music, local food and Florida sun– what more can you ask for? This festival features national and local artists showcasing some of the upcoming Tampa and Saint Petersburg talent. Tickets can be bought at gasparillamusic.com and volunteers for set up, break down, and basic roadie positions are all up for grabs.
March 30- April 3, Times vary — Channelside
Gasparilla International Film Festival
Get your indie movie fix at this year’s celebration of cinema. While the schedule has yet to be posted, tickets will be available for multiple time slots throughout the festival. Films are usually grouped into categories and then festival-goers can choose which groups they’d like to see. If you’re a die hard cinema lover, all day tickets can be purchased as well. Keep an eye on gasparillafilmfestival.com for schedules and volunteer opportunities.
There are dozens of other Gasparilla events from marathons along Bayshore to the Rough Rider’s parade. Follow the official Gasparilla page on Facebook for updates on events.