BY KELLY HAUCK
Tampa’s biggest holiday was held last weekend; the stripper convention. Magic Mike came back to his old stomping grounds and… hold on, I’m being told I have some misinformation. It was Gasparilla, the pirate festival. Same diff. The week after Gasparilla could be compared to the end of the holiday season. The hype during the days before is intense. There are decorations all over town. Then the day after comes and your house is a mess, you have to go back to school, you’re out a fat amount of money, and your pants don’t fit anymore. It’s depressing and it should be illegal. Good thing Valentine’s Day is right around the corner to cheer us up again. Just kidding. If anyone wants to see a movie then, hmu.
Gasparilla has become nothing more than a marathon of binge drinking all day and all night. The day for most UT students starts off by waking up and pounding shots of alcohol. I want to know who made the rule that if you don’t get up before the sun rises, you’re a loser lame-rod. I think I can speak for everyone when I say that no one’s first thought after waking up at the crack of dawn is to pop that champagne bottle and get so drunk that you can’t control your bowel movements. Therefore, we should switch this rule to waking up at your leisure and getting the party rolling at a reasonable time. Then maybe we can make it past 3 p.m. without a nap and without puking in the McDonald’s bathroom.
Anyone who is a student at UT knows that every year Isla, the yellow townhouse complex across from the lacrosse fields, has a huge party on the day of Gasparilla. It’s the major event to be at and everyone who’s anyone is there. Police always seem to shut it down by 11 a.m., but it’s still one hell of a party. In past years, I’ve witnessed people throw themselves out of second story windows and land on tables set up or other people in the crowd. There’s always that one rowdy guy who thinks he can pump up the party by shaking up his beer and spraying it on the crowd. Thank you, Rowdy Man, for the damp, beer-stained clothes and no sign of being “pumped up.”
Being that obliterated with hundreds of thousands of people around is a recipe for disaster. I always hear from friends the next day that they wish they remembered more of what happened, or made it to the parade. It has become a tradition to wake up and get blacked out, without even eating breakfast or hydrating yourself beforehand. I’ve seen crazy fights break out, people doing drugs, and kids passed out on the side of the road by themselves or puking on the sidewalk while people laugh and take videos. The phrase “I died at Gaspy” is circulated in the days following this pirate-filled event, and it’s a cause for the concern at the amount of people that say it.
Gasparilla, “Gaspy” if you will, is an annual shit-show, but also the best time of year for Tampa residents and UT students. It seems that every year, we wake up earlier just to consume alcohol and be belligerently drunk before 10 a.m. It’s a time for people to let loose and have fun with their friends, however, some people make this holiday too wild. Going to the hospital because of alcohol poisoning or completely forgetting entire parts of the day because you blacked out is not the purpose of Gasparilla. Countless time, money, and effort is spent shopping for and creating a cool pirate costume, so don’t ruin that by throwing up all over yourself or someone else.
Someone told me that her friend wasn’t answering his phone. She finally got the idea to look where he was using Find My Friends on her iPhone, and saw that her friend was at Tampa General Hospital, and was taken in for alcohol poisoning. This is a serious illness that could lead to death. What would have happened if no one found him and brought him to the hospital?
Despite these overzealous practices, Gasparilla isn’t totally unsafe. The Tampa Police Department, Traffic Patrol, and cleanup services do a good job of keeping it under control, however everyone does have to be careful and protect themselves. My first Gasparilla freshman year taught me this first hand. After the parade was over and the sun had set, my friends and I decided to go to a party at our friend’s house. We got one of the cabs that was waiting on campus and he decided to make us pay $5 each when it should have only been $3. We didn’t have enough money, so he kicked us out on the side of Kennedy Blvd. before we reached the party. When we exited the cab, we noticed that there was an older man dressed in a pirate costume peeing behind a bush. I guess he noticed us and started to follow us down the sidewalk. I looked back and he was too close for comfort so I told my friends and we started to walk faster and so did he. Soon he was running after us, so we ran into the McDonald’s that was nearby and called Campus Safety. This man was circling the McDonald’s parking lot trying to find us and Campus Safety finally showed up to take us back to campus. Thankfully nothing happened, but I learned to always be aware of my surroundings from this incident. It’s easy to forget bad things can happen when you’re having so much fun.
I’m thankful to say I survived Gaspy this year, but I’m sure there were several people that didn’t. With half a million people in the city of Tampa on the same day, there is opportunity for a lot of crazy stuff to go down, some good and some bad. I’m not saying it should be an alcohol free event, because that’s the fun of it, but it doesn’t need to get to the point where people are hospitalized or put in danger. It hasn’t even been a week, but I already can’t wait for next year (pace yourselves please, no one likes a puker).