The Big Invasion
It’s time again for pirates and marauders, beads and baubles. For nearly a century – the Gasparilla Festival is in its 97th year – hundreds of costumed pirates have invaded downtown Tampa with beads and pistols bared. Ye Mystic Krewe captures the city and shares a wealth of beaded trinkets and doubloons with the crowd along the parade route.
The Gasparilla Pirate Fest Street Festival will run from 10 a.m.-11 p.m. this Saturday in downtown Tampa, featuring midway rides, a parade and plenty of free entertainment.
Re-enacting the legendary Jose Gaspar’s pirate invasion of 1904, Ye Krewe of Gasparilla will set sail at 11:30 Saturday morning and make its way north across Tampa Bay into Seddon Channel, between Davis Island and Harbour Island. At approximately 1 p.m., the ship will dock at the Tampa Convention Center where Mayor Dick Greco will “surrender” to the invasion and present the key to the city of Tampa to the captain of the Krewe.
Following the successful invasion, the pirates will gather for a victory parade at 1:45 p.m. near Howard Avenue and Bayshore Boulevard, about two miles south of downtown.
A special hero’s welcome for a band of New York firefighters will lead this year’s parade. The Krewe of Saint Florian, the patron saint of firefighters, requested special invitations for the New Yorkers and expects about 40 (plus their families) for Saturday’s event, with more than 60 expected for the night parade on Feb. 16.
“We thought it would be nice to get them down here to party with us,” said Chris Stark, Krewe of St. Florian deputy and a driver/engineer for Tampa Fire Rescue, Station No. 6. He said this is the local way of “helping take care of our brothers.”
Several thousands of commemorative necklaces – featuring red, green and gold beads with a dangling coin bearing the Fire Department of New York logo – were ordered for the New York heroes to toss.
The parade, which winds down Bayshore, will be followed by a street festival that lasts until 11 p.m. in downtown Tampa.
Clear Channel Communications of Tampa Bay will have five radio stations hosting concerts at the event, including 93.3FLZ, STAR 95.7, Thunder 103.5, Newsradio 970 WFLA, Mix 100.7 and WDAE 620 The Sports Animal.
The corporation, which boasts the “top national talent for Tampa Bay’s largest community celebration,” will bring nationally known acts to the free street festival.
93.3FLZ and Red Baron Frozen Pizza will host a stage in Curtis Hixon Park on the Hillsborough River at Ashley and Zack streets. Headline entertainment features chart-toppers City High at 8:30 p.m. and Uncle Kracker at 9:20 p.m.
Sponsored by STAR 95.7 and Southwest Airlines, the Ashley Stage, at Ashley and Madison streets, will host a lineup of contemporary artists, finishing off with the 8:15 p.m. performance of Better Than Ezra.
The Classic Rock Stage, at Bayshore Boulevard and Platt Street, is sponsored by Publix and Thunder 103.5.
WDAE 620 The Sports Animal and Miller Lite will sponsor a variety of sports entertainment throughout the day’s activities. Visitors can stop by their spot at Brorein Street and Florida Avenue, where they can also register to win a big-screen television for watching the Super Bowl.
Newsradio 970 WFLA will feature a live broadcast of the day’s events, starting at 9 a.m. and running through 5 p.m. WFLA-TV News Channel 8 will broadcast the parade beginning at 2 p.m. The 2002 Gasparilla Shuttle, sponsored by the Florida State Fair and HARTline, will again coordinate the transportation for festival-goers. Event guests will be shuttled from the Florida State Fairgrounds, off Highway 301 South, to Franklin and Madison streets in downtown Tampa. Continuous bus operation will be offered from 9 a.m. until midnight, with roundtrip service costing $5 per person. Tickets are available exclusively at the Fairgrounds. Visit for more information.
- Contact Danielle Ritchie at email@example.com