TAMPA (FOX 13) - It’s been a tradition for over 100 years: Gasparilla pirates invade the city of Tampa and try to kidnap the mayor. This year is no different; Mayor Bob Buckhorn faced them down at high noon today.
It’s all part of this week’s Gasparilla festivities, which began with Saturday’s kids’ parade. This weekend, hundreds of thousands of revelers will join the pirates as they sail into Tampa aboard the Jose Gasparilla, then parade down Bayshore Boulevard.
WHAT IS GASPARILLA?
Gasparilla is an annual pirate-themed festival in Tampa that began in 1904. It’s based on the local legend of Jose Gaspar, a Spanish pirate who operated off the west coast of Florida up until the early 1800s.
The first Gasparilla parade was held in May 1904 when Tampa’s civic leaders were looking for a way to increase tourism. It has grown through the decades into one of the largest regular parades in the country and spawned the kids’ parade, an evening parade in nearby Ybor City, and other events like a half-marathon and film festival.
After facing down the pirates last weekend, tradition holds that Mayor Buckhorn defends the city today. Event organizers warned that the sounds of gunfire and cannons would be heard downtown.
The pirates will return for the big invasion, which gets underway Saturday morning. The Jose Gasparilla is expected to dock downtown around 1 p.m., and the parade will kick off an hour later at Bay to Bay and Bayshore. The 4.5-mile route winds its way along Hillsboro Bay into downtown Tampa, then over the Brorein Street bridge, north on Ashley Drive, and ends at Cass Street and Ashley Drive.
Parade organizers say this year’s event features 103 floats, three marching bands, and over 50 krewes.
The weather forecast looks good. FOX 13 meteorologists expect this week’s slight cool-down to end in time for the parade. Weather on Saturday should me mostly sunny, with a high around 76.
NHL ALL STAR GAME
This year’s Gasparilla event is expected to be even bigger than usual. Tampa is hosting the NHL All Star Game the same weekend, which should draw thousands of tourists to Amalie Arena. The city and the NHL have warned that traffic could be worse than usual all weekend as a result.
Not coincidentally, former NHL All-Star and Tampa Bay Lightning standout Vinny Lecavalier will be the grand marshal of this year's Gasparilla parade.