Gasparilla tradition: 'Pirates' fail to win Tampa's surrender ahead of parade

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Only in Tampa would you see a band of pirates storming city hall, demanding the mayor to hand over the key to the city.

It's part of Gasparilla, of course. 

Swashbucklers with Ye Mystic Krewe burst into the mayor's office Tuesday, demanding he surrender the city - or else the pirates will invade.

"We came with beads and we're leaving with the key!" they proclaimed.

Even under pressure from pirates, Mayor Bob Buckhorn refused to give them the key to the city.

Buckhorn is experienced in the ways of defending the city against invading pirates. He's done this every year of his eight-year term, but due to term limits, this year will be his last.

"This is such a great week for the city," Buckhorn said after his final victory. "Next year, I'm going to be part of the problem, not the solution."

But as for this year, his resistance means pirates have no choice but to invade - like they have every year since 1904.

The history of the Gasparilla pirate invasion is on display at the Henry Plant Museum, where old keys to the city unlock the legends of a celebration unique to Tampa, which was originally meant to spice up May Day.

"The very earliest Gasparillas had leading citizens on horseback. They didn't actually have a ship for the first ten years or so," explained Lindsay Huban with the museum.

And more than a hundred years since Mayor D.B. McKay met the pirates in 1915, the tradition goes on, even as the mayors and the city change.

"The next mayor doesn't have to change anything, just keep this momentum going,” Mayor Buckhorn said. “Over the next five years and 10 years, you're not going to recognize this place. "

He'll get the preside over one last Gasparilla pirate invasion along with the big parade this Saturday.