Tampa is a unique city.
It is home to art museums and businesses, hipsters and bankers. It was one of the top sellers of illegal liquor in the country during Prohibition and is widely considered the death metal capital of the world.
However, its most bizarre quality is the fact that each spring, pirates take over the city, kidnap the mayor and hold a raging, booze-filled festival.
The new year has begun, pirate shirts are being pulled from the backs of closets across the Bay and citizens, from retirees to college students, are calling out of work in preparation for the biggest, and strangest party of the year.
The pirate ship, Jose Gasparilla, will sail from the south end of the bay at 11:30 a.m. and dock at 1 p.m. at the Convention Center.
It’s a Tampa tradition, taking place Saturday with the pirates invading between 2 p.m. and 5 p.m. and despite its oddity and cause of widespread degeneracy, Gasparilla should be cherished.
For a moment, the community comes together, regardless of race, occupation or socio-economic status and unites in a desire to wear bizarre clothes, collect a plethora of beads and down enough alcohol to stumble in mass quantities across the Bay.
But students shouldn’t go into the chaos unprepared.
Over 140 units will be in the parade, according to the Tampa Bay Times, so students should hang out around Convention Center for the best treats and beads, as they tend to run out by the end of the parade.
Cell phone service is always non-existent, so it’s imperative you and your “crew” have plans on a meeting location and time in case you’re separated in the madness.
Yes, the booze will be tempting. It will be hot, crowded and smelling strongly of urine and beer. Downing some local brews and margaritas seems like the best way to survive the chaotic experience.
And that’s fine.
Drinking is bound to happen, though hopefully not by those underage, so remember to refrain from posting too much online. Your employer and future employers will be watching, so if you end up hurling into a bush near Curtis Hixon, don’t let your friend post it on Twitter.
Have fun, but be safe. Bring a designated driver or be prepared to pay a heavy upcharge for an Uber. Remember, the police will be on every corner, so try to stay within the means of the law.
Many students are only here for the four years they attend USF. Make the most of your adopted home. Don your pirate hat with its glorious feather, put on those leather boots and go explore the city.
Watching a horde of pirates take over the Bay is a truly remarkable sight. Go, and don’t hesitate to join in the festivities.
Tampa is a city unlike any other, and this weekend is one of its crowning glories.