TAMPA (FOX 13) - When the Jose Gasparilla sails in, it will be the 114th time that Tampa celebrates what's become so familiar. But the Gasparilla parades and festivals have a surprising history, starting with horses.
"It started as a May Day celebration where some of the leading citizens would come in on horseback and invade the city," says Lindsay Huban of the Henry B. Plant Museum.
Many treasures of Gasparilla history are on display at the Henry Plant Museum on the University of Tampa campus.
"We actually have on display the Gasparilla queen's crown from 1904, the very first year of Gasparilla," Huban said, showing us some of the historical items kept there.
The crown is covered in jewels and is displayed with a matching scepter. They're part of an exhibit opening this Saturday called Gasparilla: A Tampa Tradition.
The exhibit includes three newly-restored Gasparilla gowns from the 1920s, a historic film of pirate invasions, and countless photographs.
"I love the photographs of the mayors surrendering the keys to the city," laughed Huban. "It's such a part of Tampa that the mayors are so happy to turn their keys over to this band of pirates."
The exhibit opens Saturday and runs through March 4. Admission is $10 for adults, $7 for seniors and children.