Ahoy Mateys! Ye ‘ol and young listen carefully… there’s a bunch of pirates about to take the key to the city… and you best be ready or we reckon you might walk the plank!
Gasparilla is one of Tampa’s favorite traditions. January just wouldn’t be the same without pirate costumes, ships, races and parades. Each year the event seems to get bigger and bigger and this year is no exception. In fact, Visit Tampa Bay affectionately calls it “Gasparilla Season”. From races to children’s parades and of course the actual event, we know it’s a lot to keep track of. Don’t worry, though, we’ve created the perfect guide to give you a look at what to expect at each festivity so you can plan accordingly! Click the links for more information about each event of scroll down for more details about Jose Gaspar, how Gasparilla came to be and additional details about the events leading up to the Gasparilla Pirate Fest.
Calendar of Events
Here’s a rundown of the events leading up to and after this year’s Gasparilla Fest. You can click here to receive updates.
January 9: Gasparilla Bangle Invasion 2016 at 5:30-9:00 pm at Hyde Park Village
January 13: VooDoo Chef Experience: Gasparilla “Party” Fest at 7:00-9:00 pm at the Epicurean Hotel **ticket purchase required
January 23: Gasparilla Preschooler’s Stroll at 1:30p.m. near Howard Ave. in Tampa
January 23: Children’s Gasparilla Extravaganza at 3:30 p.m. in Tampa
January 29: Gasparilla Pre-Invasion Celebration at Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park in Tampa at 5 p.m. ** ticket purchase required
January 30: Gasparilla Pirate Fest Invasion starts at 11:30a.m. and the parade starts at 2 p.m. in Tampa
February 13: Sant’ Yago Knight Parade at 7 p.m. in Ybor City
February 20-21: Gasparilla Distance Classic
March 5-6: Gasparilla Festival of Arts at Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park in Tampa
March 12-13: Gasparilla Music Festival **ticket purchase required
March 30- April 3: Gasparilla Film Festival
Who is Gasparilla Anyway?
We’re glad you asked! Gasparilla gets its name from the pirate, Jose Gaspar. You can read an extensive background on him here. The digest version is that Jose Gaspar was “the last of the buccaneers”. He was born in Spain in 1756 and became a naval officer. By 1783, legend has it that Gaspar turned to piracy, plundered many ships and amassed a large amount of treasure. He sailed around on his ship, the Floriblanca and used Gasparilla Island as his home base.
“THE LEGEND OF GASPARILLA: MYTH AND HISTORY ON FLORIDA’S WEST COAST” by André-Marcel d’Ans summarizes the 38 year period when Jose Gaspar nicknamed himself “Gasparilla” and became a legendary pirate:
“For thirty-eight years, from 1783 to 1821, Gasparilla and his crew scoured the seas around their hideaway. They attacked merchant ships, accumulated a fabulous treasure and killed without mercy all the crews, with the exception of a few sailors, whom the pirates drafted to replace their dead.”
“Occasionally, other women passengers of high rank and wealth were spared and held for ransom on a nearby island, later named Captiva Island for that reason.”
According to Ans, Gaspar decided he wanted to retire from piracy when one last opportunity came sailing out of the horizon. He thought it was a British merchant ship but in fact it was the USS Enterprise, a warship. The Floriblanca didn’t stand much of a chance and neither did Gaspar.
Ans writes this about the final moments of Gasparilla’s life:
“Gasparilla decided to die without surrendering. He climbed to the bow of the sinking ship, wrapped the anchor’s chain around his body, and threw himself into the sea as he cried out: “Gasparilla dies by his own hand not the enemy’s.”
What is Gasparilla?
You’ll impress most of the pirates at Gasparilla if you not only know the story behind the man himself but also how it became a Tampa tradition… or you might just be curious. It all started back in 1904 and has been held annually ever since. An organization called “Ye Mystic Krewe of Gasparilla” become invaders and wear pirate costumes as they sail into Tampa Bay on the Jose Gaspar which was built just for the festival back in 1954. “Jose Gaspar” is surrounded by dozens of other ships as Gaspar received the key to the city of Tampa from the Mayor. After this, hundreds of thousands of people watch as the parade rolls through the streets of Tampa.
Gasparilla Bangle Invasion
Hyde Park Village is the place to be on Saturday, January 9th to get your very own official 2016 Gasparilla Bourbon and Boweties Bangle. The event gets underway at 5:30 p.m. and will be located in the center of the village under a large white tent. Light hors d’oeuvres will be provided by Ferg’s Live Tampa and there will be pirates available for photos. The event is hosted by Salt Pines. If you are unable to attend you can purchase your bangle online here.
#DoYouBangle #GasparillaTampa #SaltPines #GasparillaBangle
VooDoo Chef Experience: Gasparilla “Party” Fest
There is already a waitlist for this event! The Voodoo Chef is preparing a fun tasting in honor of Gasparilla at the Epicurean Hotel on January 13 from 7-9 p.m. Tickets are $65. Here’s a look at the menu:
(VDC Smoke, VDC Red)
Refreshing blend of Budweiser and Fresh Squeezed Lime Juice with just a touch of heat!
(VDC FATBOY, VDC Red, VDC Smoke)
Belly, Bourbon, Apples, Greens
Captain Morgan’s Spiced Rum & Coca Cola
The Ybor Strip
(VDC DIRT, VDC Southern Gold)
La Segunda Cuban Bread, Espresso Rubbed NY Strip, Swiss Cheese, Caramelized Onion, Arugula, Southern Gold
Gaspar’s Rum Rolls
Plantains, Raisins, Walnuts, VooDoo-fied Vanilla Cream, Crisp Wonton
Captain Morgan’s Spiced Rum Sauce
*VooDoo Chef Sauce and Seasoning was named Gasparilla Pirate Fest’s Official Sauce and Seasoning
Gasparilla Preschooler’s Stroll
Pre-registered preschooler’s and their families will be parading down Bayshore Blvd in an event created just for them! The stroll starts at 1:30 pm on Howard Ave. The route is a 1/2 mile and there will be plenty of areas to watch the precious kiddos parade by!
Children’s Gasparilla Extravaganza
The Children’s Gasparilla Parade has been part of the Festival since 1947. Tickets can be purchased to sit and enjoy the parade here. The route begins at Bay to Bay Blvd. and Bayshore Blvd. on January 23rd at 3:30 p.m.
Gasparilla Pre-Invasion Celebration
Get ready to rock out the night before Jose Gaspar and his fellow pirates force the Mayor to surrender the city! This year’s line up includes The Swon Brothers, Howie Day and The Hip Abduction. Gates will open at 5 p.m. and The Hip Abduction will take the stage at 6 p.m. Tickets are only available from EventFest here or by calling (813) 251-8854. Lawn Seating starts at $20.
Gasparilla Pirate Fest
The invasion is set to take place at 11:30 in the morning on Saturday January 30th. The parade will follow suit at 2 in the afternoon and the live music and festivities will continue through the evening. This is the country’s 3rd largest parade and draws around 300,000 people each year according to Visit Tampa Bay. Don’t be afraid to dress as a pirate if you’re heading out to this event!