Invasion of the pirates

The Tampa Bay area is being invaded — not by terrorists or aliens but by … pirates? That’s right; Gasparilla is right around the corner, scheduled for Jan. 29, a week earlier than usual due to the upcoming Super Bowl.

The Gasparilla Pirate Fest commemorates the pirate Jose Gaspar, who stalked the waters of West Florida during the 18th and 19th centuries. In 1904 the pirate was adopted as the official mascot for Tampa’s first May festival, and Gasparilla has been an annual event ever since, featuring a “Parade of the Pirates” and an invasion of Tampa Bay.

“It’s a signature event for the city because it’s been around so long with the two-part celebration,” said Executive Officer of Ye Mystic Krewe of Gasparilla Jim Tarbet. “It’s looked forward to each year by the people of Tampa Bay and Hillsborough County.”

The pirate invasion will begin at 11 a.m. at Hillsborough Bay and will dock at the Tampa Convention Center at 1 p.m. Following that will be the “Parade of the Pirates” at 2 p.m., starting at Bay to Bay and Bayshore Boulevard. In addition, there will be a downtown street festival at the Gasparilla Midway featuring live entertainment.

“I have never been to Gasparilla, but I am planning on attending the day parade this year,” said USF senior Kelly Bayliss. “I keep hearing people talk about it and I figure it is something I should at least experience once.”

Reserved brunch tickets for the invasion and reserved seating for the parade are both available at the Gasparilla ticket line (813-353-8108) and at the event’s official Web site, Reserved brunch tickets are $48 for adults and $38 for children and reserved seating tickets are $20.

Round-trip shuttle service from Raymond James Stadium will be available for $7 per person and free parking at the stadium will be available in lots 1-4. Shuttle bus operation will be offered from 9 a.m. until midnight.