By Cassie Manner
Gasparilla celebrations continued this past weekend as the Krewe of Sant’ Yago put on its 43rd annual Knight Parade. The nighttime celebration is the biggest of its kind in the southeast according to Visit Tampa Bay and parade chairman Ray Favata.
Over 100 floats paraded down Ybor City’s 7th Avenue Feb. 11, each one more unique and colorful than the last. Each float featured a different pirate theme and most had a live DJ or blaring sound system to get the party going both on the vessel and in the crowd. Floats were accompanied by hundreds of invading pirates, sharing their most valuable booty – beads. Crowds lined the parade route, hoping to catch some treasure to take home.
Favata coordinated this year’s event. He discovered his pirating passion at the age of six and has pursued it ever since. In fact, the parade has a deeper meaning to this Krewe of Sant’ Yago member. Joe Granda, his grandfather, founded the event in 1974, the same year graduated from UT.
The parade was well organized, giving each pirate crew their moment to shine as they passed the crowd without overlap. “Months and months of prep go into it,” Favata said. His planning proved worthwhile, as the parade held an exciting and positive vibe throughout, undoubtedly making his grandfather proud.
Favata encouraged the public to, “come early and make a day out of it.” Many did just this, traveling to the event from both in and out of state by car and even motorhome, setting up a tailgating area and staking out their spot for the parade.
Many spectators proclaimed their love for the yearly happening.
“The Gasparilla (Knight) parade has an electric atmosphere, making it an awesome experience. Each float had bright lights, beads, music and dancing pirates, it was exciting,” junior marketing major Alec Dollard said.
Alongside pirating, safety is also the parade’s top priority.
“We haven’t had an arrest in over seven years during the parade,” Favata said.
The parade coordinators have worked to make the originally adult-geared event more family oriented. With police officers stationed throughout the event, the environment offered a safe and welcoming atmosphere despite its location in a part of town with a notoriously high crime rate. A fatal shooting of a 17-year-old boy occurred in a neighborhood near the parade as it came to an end, though any connection to the event has not been made by authorities.
“Despite such a large crowd, I felt security was wrong and felt safe,” Dollard said.
The densest portion of the crowd was located in central Ybor, where dozens of Tampa’s favorite establishments came together to celebrate this cultural tradition, while adding their own personal twist. Attendees and staff members agreed, smiling and dancing to the music as the seemingly never ending floats poured down the narrow street.
“It was my first time attending and I was overwhelmed with the amount of people,” Dollard said. Ybor was united as one big pirate-loving community.
Bars, clubs and restaurants were packed to capacity as the pirate partying went on into the night.
“It was chaos, so many people,” Narad said. Parade members even joined the crowd as the parade finished, making it almost impossible to tell who was part of the event and who was spectating. Tampa natives broke out their favorite pirate apparel, with 65 pirating crews involved.
The Krewe of Sant’ Yago Knight Parade is sure to keep the tradition alive in years to come in the following weeks after Gasparilla for those pirates that just can’t get enough. “I definitely plan on attending next year,” Dollard said.