Almost every year since 1904, the streets of downtown Tampa are cleared in order to make way for pirate invaders and their spectators to pillage and plunder the bountiful plastic booty offered.
Gasparilla is more than an event — it is a Tampa tradition that spans over nearly a month. It is filled with many activities to entice everyone, no matter where his or her interests may lie. Some of these activities are, the Miss Gasparilla Pageant, the Gasparilla Distance Classic and the Gasparilla Music Festival.
The Gasparilla Invasion will begin Saturday at 11:30 a.m. as Ye Mystic Krewe of Gasparilla invades
Tampa Bay by boat. The Parade of Pirates will then begin at 2 p.m. For more information on Saturday’s events, visit gasparillapiratefest.com.
For those who have not yet experienced the swashbuckling custom, here are a few tips to help you get through the chaotic day of events.
Stay classy, ladies of USF
For some inexplicable reason, the atmosphere — and alcohol — tends to encourage women to release their inhibitions and pull up their tops in exchange for beads. Don’t be that girl. Don’t throw away your dignity for strands of plastic that will eventually land in the trash anyways.
Follow the rules of drinking
While the standards of the event adhere to complete and total debauchery, it is also flooded with law enforcement officers who are always on the lookout for underage drinking and have a zero-tolerance policy. If over 21, bringing your own alcohol is not permitted, but there are several vendors that offer a plethora of beer and rum — just make sure you have a designated driver or cab fare.
The early pirate gets the beads
In order to secure an ideal spot, come as early as possible, bring a blanket and pop a squat to mark your territory. The earlier you get there, the better because there are spectators that come as early as the break of dawn to get a great parking and spectating spot. Try not to get a spot near the port-a-potties or vendors. Sure they are convenient, but they are also high traffic areas that can lead to people invading your space.
Finding the perfect spot
Just like the opinion of what creates the perfect spot varies from person to person, so does the parade route to accommodate personal preference. If a party is what you’re going for, downtown Tampa, closest to the Gasparilla Pirate Fest and Gasparilla Invasion stages are best. For the best parking, park in Ybor or Channelside and catch the trolley to downtown. If more room to jump for beads is wanted, park on MacDill Avenue or Howard Avenue and walk to a spot at the beginning of the parade route.
Watch out for bead bullies
This is a serious problem. There are people out there who get a little too much into the pirate spirit and will fight over worthless, plastic paraphernalia. Let them have it — it is not worth it. The parade will last long enough to allow you to grab a few souvenirs eventually. If not and the absence of beads around your neck makes you sad, ignore tip No. 1 and let loose. You’ll get some.
Mo’ money, no problems
Make sure to bring cash. For most vendors, it is the only form of acceptable payment. Though, for those who forget to make a cash run, there will be mobile ATMs available along the route. Coolers are forbidden, but water bottles and small snacks are allowed if money is an issue.
Bring your own krewe
For safety issues — and to increase the overall fun — Gasparilla is best experienced in a group of friends. More people in the group increases the chances of a safe ride home and decreases the possibility of doing something stupid while under the influence of alcohol.