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Gasparilla

Centennial Logo Art for 100th Annual Gasparilla Pirate FestFor 100 years pirates have invaded Tampa Bay. Every year, the unruly plunderers take over the city in honor of the mythical legendary pirate Jose Gaspar. The "Gasparilla Pirate Fest" is one of the country's largest and most unique outdoor celebrations. It begins when the world's only fully-rigged pirate ship sails into the heart of Tampa. Flanked by hundreds of pleasure craft and vessels of all shapes and sizes, the invasion is a formidable sight. Built entirely of steel, the black-hulled "Jose Gasparilla" measures 165 feet in length and is topped by three masts that tower 100 feet above deck. Tugboats tow the craft and its crew of 700 pirates with flags flying and cannons booming as the vessel makes its way along Hillsborough Bay.

The history and name of this Tampa tradition traces back to the legendary antics of Jose Gaspar. Gaspar reputedly patrolled the waters of West Florida during the late 18th century. A society columnist with the Tampa Tribune is credited with creating a May festival in 1904 that first incorporated a pirate-inspired theme. The original members of Ye Mystic Krewe of Gasparilla stormed Tampa on horseback before becoming seaworthy in 1911. The success of those early invasions prompted planners to move the celebration to its winter time slot and encouraged the creation of additional events.

Photos

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The photos below are courtesy of the Tampa Bay Convention & Visitors Bureau and may not be reproduced without permission from the Bureau.

Ye Mystic Krewe of Gasparilla pirate aboard the Jose Gasparilla pirate ship. Hundreds of pleasure crafts flank the Jose Gasparilla pirate ship, defending Tampa against the Krewe of plundering pirates. The Jose Gasparilla docks at the Tampa Convention Center in downtown. Tampa residents defend their city against the pirates’ siege.

The Jose Gasparilla pirate ship makes its way up Hillsborough Bay with cannons blasting. Gasparilla pirate riding a float during the Gasparilla Pirate Fest parade. Ye Mystic Krewe Pirates aboard the Jose Gasparilla pirate ship. A large group of spectators clamor for beads as the Jose Gasparilla ship docks.

A pirate from Ye Mystic Krewe of Gasparilla adorns parade-goers with beads. A mom hoists her child up in the air to get a better view of the oncoming pirates during the parade. Parade goers beg for beads along the 4.5-mile parade route on beautiful Bayshore Boulevard.

After leaving the Jose Gasparilla ship and taking the keys to the City of Tampa from the Mayor, 700 rowdy swashbucklers take to the streets to share their treasures of beads and doubloons. A young girl gives the pirates a thumbs-up to say “Thanks for the beads!” Arrrggghh! Pirates from Ye Mystic Krewe of Gasparila.