Tampa’s Gasparilla Festival: A Friendly Pirate Invasion
One of the unique winter events in nearby Tampa Florida is the Gasparilla Festival: a pirate “invasion” for the whole family to enjoy!
What is it?
The annual Gasparilla Festival celebrates pirate Jose Gaspar, and a battle between him and American forces that supposedly occurred in Tampa Bay in 1821.
Jose Gaspar was called the “last of the Buccaneers” and operated his pirating along the coast of West Florida during late 18th / early 19th centuries.
Legend has it that in his final battle, Gaspar was surprised by the USS Enterprise which was disguised as a British merchant ship. When Gaspar realized he would lose the battle to the Americans, he vowed to take his own life instead. He then wound the ship’s anchor chain around himself and jumped into the sea. But don’t worry, the Gasparilla Festival is a light-hearted celebration, with lots of friendly “pirates” in town.
Legend also states that Gaspar left an untold fortune in buried treasure somewhere along the state’s coast. The treasure has never been found.
The huge Gasparilla “invasion” takes place in Tampa Bay each year when large numbers of boats enter the harbor and unload their pirate crews. The pirates then “kidnap” the mayor, holding him hostage until he turns over the key to the city.
Celebrations then take place including the famous parade, where scores of beads are thrown to onlookers.
Ye Mystic Krewe of Gasparilla are the founders of the Gasparilla Festival. The Krewe was founded in 1904, inspired by the legend of pirate Jose Gaspar.
Members participate in community and charity events year round, and host the annual Invasion and Parade of Pirates, along with the family-friendly Children’s parade.
Ye Mystic Krewe used a ship to “capture” the city of Tampa in 1911 and in 1954 commissioned the Jose Gasparilla II, a fully-rigged pirate ship used for the annual pirate invasion.
This year’s schedule of events:
January 20, 2018 – the Children’s Gasparilla Extravaganza (Tampa)
January 27, 2018 – the Gasparilla Pirate Fest (Tampa)
February 10, 2018 – Krewe of Sant’ Yago Illuminated Knight Parade (Ybor City)
March 3, 2018 – the Outbound Voyage (Tampa)
If you’re visiting our Hickory Point RV Park or a neighboring site, consider attending this popular festival in downtown Tampa.