There are some words that instantly conjure up a number of exotic images in the mind, with ‘Gasparilla’ providing a relevant case in point. While it may sound like a rare continental drink or the name of Manchester United’s latest South American signing, it actually refers to a rare and popular event that unfolds annually on the coast of Tampa Bay in Florida.
Ahoy there Matey!
More specifically, the Gasparilla Pirate Festival is a staple of the Florida calendar and the event marks the beginning of each year in unique style. It has developed a cult following in Tampa Bay and the surrounding regions, thanks largely to its incredibly care-free nature and the fascinating history behind it.
You need to explore the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries in the U.S. During this time, the coastal waters of West Florida were terrorised by a legendary pirate named Jose Gaspar, who often referred to himself as 'Gasparilla’ and was renowned as the last of the Buccaneers. Having previously served as a lieutenant in the Royal Spanish Navy for five years until 1783, he subsequently led a mutiny and set sail for the Florida coast with an army of blood-thirsty outlaws.
The Truth behind the Gasparilla Pirate Festival
And so began decades of merciless carnage and pillaging, as the ruthless Gasparilla and his troops continued to ravage the coastline until December 1821. The precise number of ships that fell prey to Gasparilla’s army during this time remains unknown.
Fact/ Fiction, Myths/ Legends:
While Gasparilla hardly seems like the kind of guy you would invite on a peaceful fishing trip, his legend and sense of adventure have helped to guarantee his cult status among the knowledgeable residents of Tampa Bay. Even the narrative of his death has a defiant and perversely romantic air, as the Buccaneer chose to brandish his sword when outnumbered and drown himself with a heavy chain rather than surrender to an opposition army.
What the 2019 Event has in Store for you
In an age where romance remains a rare currency, Gasparilla appears as a rich and affluent icon in history.
So on Saturday, January 26th 2019, the annual Gasparilla Pirate Festival will once again invade the shores of Tampa Bay and pay homage to one of the region’s most unlikely heroes.
The parade itself is a huge draw for local residents, with fireworks, mini-cannons and marching bands providing universal entertainment for people from all walks of life. Members of Ye Mystic Crew also throw beads, coins and trinkets into the crowd as they make their way along the coastline, before eventually embarking on the recently reinstated ‘Outward Voyage Home’ after returning the keys of this once besieged city.
Starting aboard a majestic private ship
You can join Ye Mystic Crew of Gasparilla and enjoy a day of merriment, revelry and entertainment. As the ship performs a spectacular invasion that involves a flotilla of accompanying boats, Tampa Bay is once again transformed into a pirates’ haven that offers guests into an insight into a dark and ultimately fascinating way of life. Once ashore, the Mayor of Tampa will hand over the keys of the city to the pirate captain and a victory parade will ensure along the bustling Bayshore Boulevard.
Something for Everyone
With more than 100 food stands, multiple cuisines and a range of beverages also on offer throughout the day, guests can enjoy a diverse feast and celebrate the memory of a regional hero in style. There are even smaller pirate parades to suit younger guests.
Eat, Drink and be Merry
So whether you are a fan of local history or simply wish to banish the winter blues through a prescription of food, drink and merriment, a trip to the Gasparilla Pirate Festival is just the ticket. More information can be found on the Gasparilla Pirate website.