'Gasparilla is back': Mayor stresses personal responsibility before 1st pirate invasion since pandemic began

Gasparilla organizers promised to make the 2022 season "bigger than ever" and city officials are prepared to welcome large crowds after last year's festivities were canceled due to the pandemic

Gasparilla season is here with the Children's Gasparilla Parade on Saturday, Jan. 22, and the Gasparilla Pirate Fest on Saturday, Jan. 29. For the little pirates, the parade route will be 4.5 miles while the adult version will be 6.5 miles. 

"If you can’t social distance, wear a mask," Tampa Mayor Jane Castor said Tuesday. "The omicron has hit us, it has gone up quickly. All indications say it will go down as quickly. So, personal responsibility at this point. Personal responsibility and a mask."

READ: The ship at the center of it all: A history of the Jose Gasparilla II

She said while the city is excited for the return of Gasparilla events, she still suggests those who are immunocompromised should remain at home.

"This is the signature event for the entire Tampa Bay area," she said. "It is an opportunity for our community to come together and celebrate safely. It puts us on the stage for others to see we really do live in paradise. This year obviously is different with the pandemic. We are still under the omicron variant we are asking everyone to ensure that they understand their level of personal responsibility. The best way to avoid contraction or transmission…is to be vaccinated and to be boosted."

The mayor also announced a text message campaign. She said texting "GASPARILLA" to 888777 will deliver updates ahead of the parade to anyone who wants them.s

"You’ll get real-time updates all the way from the beginning of the parade through it as well, with traffic patterns, any emergencies that may occur, all of that," Castor said.

MORE: Gasparilla's history dates back more than a century

When it comes to public safety, law enforcement officials say they will be out on land, sea, and in the air. Bike medics will be out along the parade routes and there will be marine resources in the bay and Hillsborough River, explained Tampa Fire Rescue Chief Barbara Tripp.

"Let’s make sure we take care of the little ones. They seem to get lost," she said, suggesting parents to take photos of the children or leave some form of identification on the young pirates.

The cancellation in 2021 was not the first time in event history, EventFest noted. Since the first Gasparilla in 1904, parades were not held for several reasons, including the Super Bowl year of 1991, when Krewe organizers pulled out of the event rather than give in to the NFL's demand that they allow Black members.

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