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Saturday is Gasparilla Day for the little ones

Bill DeYoung



Although the "pirate invasion" and Gasparilla Parade happen Jan. 27, this Saturday features pirate-themed events for children. All photos: Gasparilla Pirate Fest.

Tampa, if you didn’t already know, is pirate-happy.

Specifically, the city takes a couple of weekends every January to encourage eye patch-wearing, plastic sword-waving and basic buccaneer behavior, all in the name of a legendary Florida pirate who never actually existed.

“He” was Jose Gaspar, and the city’s Chamber of Commerce dreamed him up 124 years ago, and invented his backstory, as the cornerstone of what would soon become Tampa’s largest pubic celebration and parade.

Gasparilla is the name, and the big festival day, including the massive parade that drew 300,000 (including, no doubt, quite a few residents of St. Petersburg) in 2023, is Jan. 27. Find all details here.

This Saturday, Jan. 20 is Children’s Gasparilla, centered around a family-friendly parade (no lusty wenches or drunken debauchery allowed). It begins at 4 p.m. at Bay to Bay and Bayshore Boulevard. Marching bands and marching pirates, rolling floats and more proceed north along Bayshore Boulevard for 1.5 miles, throwing beads and other goodies to the crowd, before ending at Edison Avenue, at approximately 6:15 p.m.

The other events on tap for Saturday’s Children’s Gasparilla:

Bicycle & Pedestrian Safety Rodeo. At Bayshore Boulevard, between Rome and Dakota Avenue, the free event is open to all. Volunteers will fit children with a new, free bicycle helmet that they can keep (while supplies last); the kids will then journey through a fun mini-traffic course on a provided bicycle.

Preschooler’s Stroll. Children 5 and under parade along Bayshore Boulevard in decorated wagons, bicycles and strollers. The stroll begins at 2 p.m. at Bayshore and Howard, proceeding north to Rome Avenue. Although viewers are encouraged, participant pre-registration ends today (Jan. 17).

Gasparilla Air Invasion. Skywriters, formation flights and a precision parachute jump by the Chuters Parachute Demonstration Team, landing at DeSoto and Bayshore Boulevard (one block north of Howard and Bayshore). Starts at 6:15 p.m., as the parade is winding down.

Piratechnic Fireworks Extravaganza. Daredevil stunt planes from Ghostwriter Airshows lead the finale (around 7 p.m.) with a fireworks flight, followed by a display of fireworks launched from a Gasparilla ship moored off the center of Bayshore Boulevard.

All events are free. For a locator map, parking details and other information, visit the Children’s Gasparilla website here.


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