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Gasparilla bannerGet ready to be pillaged and plundered as once again pirates will be invading Tampa. For more than a century, the City of Tampa has celebrated Gasparilla, a celebration of the city’s pirate heritage. Parades, a yearly “attack” and revelry have turned the last weekend of January into one of the city’s largest party weekends.

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Get ready to be pillaged and plundered as once again pirates will be invading Tampa. For more than a century, the City of Tampa has celebrated Gasparilla, a celebration of the city’s pirate heritage. Parades, a yearly “attack” and revelry have turned the last weekend of January into one of the city’s largest party weekends.

Gasparilla” sounds like an exotic drink – or perhaps even a rare, tropical flower – however, as any Tampa resident can attest, “Gasparilla” means boats, pirates, parades, merriment and more. This year’s events kick-off Jan. 25 with the reveling continuing through Jan. 27.

Presented by Ye Mystic Krewe of Gasparilla, the festival, reminiscent of Mardi Gras, has been going on in Tampa since 1904 with an average attendance of over 500,000. While they initially invaded on horseback, this yearly invasion soon came by sea, and now each year Ye Mystic Krewe invades aboard the Jose Gasparilla pirate ship, flanked by hundreds of more modern boats and naughty pirates, sailing into Hillsborough Bay to downtown Tampa where they ceremoniously seize the key to the city from the mayor.

The invasion then gives way to the Invasion Brunch at the Tampa Convention Center, a parade with nearly 100 floats down Bayshore Boulevard rife with bead throwing as well as the daylong Pirate Fest Street Festival on Ashley Street in downtown Tampa.

Beginning in 2011, Gasparilla weekend got a whole lot gayer, thanks to a number of Ybor City businesses introducing a circuit party “light” weekend of events. El Gancho – Florida’s gay Mardi Gras – runs from January 25-27 in Ybor City (home of the GaYBOR District). This circuit weekend culminates around the “El Gancho Party” on Saturday from 10 pm till 3 am.  A fusion of heavy tribal beats and diva anthems, spectacular lighting, and eccentric performances make the event unlike anything Tampa has ever seen.

A portion of this year’s proceeds will benefit local non-profit Metro Wellness and Community Centers, Inc. located in Ybor City.

Gasparilla FlotillaSaturday, January 26

Gasparilla Invasion Brunch (10:00 a.m. – 1 p.m.)

Be among the first in the city to surrender to the pirates while encouraging the Mayor to relinquish the key to the city.  The Tampa Convention Center will host the Gasparilla Invasion Brunch. This is your opportunity for reserved seating along the Tampa Convention Center’s Riverwalk.  The Jose Gasparilla will sail up Seddon Channel and dock “table side” at the Convention Center. 

This colorful event includes a buffet brunch, live entertainment and a reserved seat with the best view in Tampa of the historic Gasparilla Invasion of the pirates, presented by Ye Mystic Krewe of Gasparilla.

Tampa Convention Center, 333 S. Franklin St., Tampa, FL 33602
For more info. www.GasparillaTreasures.com or call (813) 251-8844.

Pirate Invasion (11:30am – 1pm)

The legendary pirate, Jose Gaspar, and his band of marauding buccaneers return to Tampa to reenact the historic pirate invasion. At 11:30 a.m., the Jose Gasparilla will magically appear at the south end of Hillsborough Bay.  The ship is met by a multitude of pleasure crafts all intent on defending the City of Tampa.  They quickly see the error of their ways and join the Captain and his Krewe’s flotilla. The Gasparilla Flotilla then makes its way north across Hillsborough Bay and into Seddon Channel (the channel between Davis Island and Harbour Island).

The Gasparilla Flotilla, which is led by YMKG’s Jose Gasparilla and accompanied by thousands of crafts, is a spectacle like no other as it makes its way up Seddon Channel towards downtown Tampa. Amidst a volley of cannon fire, the city is defenseless as the Jose Gasparilla docks at the Tampa Convention Center at 1 p.m. The Mayor surrenders the key to the city into the hands of the Captain of Ye Mystic Krewe of Gasparilla.

Gasparilla CrewesGasparilla Parade of the Pirates (2 p.m. – 5:30 p.m.)

Following another successful invasion of Tampa, the pirates gather on Bayshore Boulevard for a victory parade, which begins at 2:00 p.m. at Bay to Bay and Bayshore. The Captain of Ye Mystic Krewe of Gasparilla and his band of marauding buccaneers, having captured the City of Tampa, share their booty of beads, treasures and doubloons with the enthusiastic crowd. More than 130 units, including over 100 colorful floats, 14 marching bands, 50 participating Krewes and, of course, those infamous YMKG pirates coast along the 3.8 mile parade route.

For more info., visit GasparillaTreasures.com or call (813) 251-8844.

Gasparilla Pirate Fest Street Festival (10a.m. – 10p.m.)

The streets of downtown Tampa host the Pirate Fest street festival along Florida Avenue, from Kennedy Boulevard to Channelside Drive.  The merriment begins before the pirates invade the city and continues until long after the last pirate parades through the streets! 

The 2013 Pirate Fest Street Festival will feature stages of live entertainment and food.

For more info., visit GasparillaExtravaganza.com or GasparillaPirateFest.com

El Gancho Party (10p.m. – 3a.m.)

Ybor City’s thriving gay nightlife scene will be out in full force for this “circuit-light” party – billed as “Gay Gasparilla” – at various venues Friday through Sunday. Look for pre-parties on the balcony at Hamburger Mary’s starting at 7p.m. each night.

For more info., visit ganchotampa.com.

 

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