It’s Gasparilla season in Tampa, Florida! Half a million people will descend on the area as pirates take over the city. The annual reenactment of the historic pirate invasion takes place on January 28th. Tampanians will dress in their pirate best for the 2023 Seminole Hard Rock Gasparilla Pirate Fest featuring the 106th Gasparilla Invasion and Parade of Pirates presented by Ye Mystic Krewe of Gasparilla.
The Gasparilla Invasion
On the morning of Saturday, January 28, the José Gasparilla will make its way across Hillsborough Bay, followed by hundreds of boats. It is the only fully-rigged pirate ship in the world and will be filled with pirates. The Gasparilla Flotilla will then make its way to downtown Tampa. Once it docks, the mayor of Tampa will surrender the Keys to the City to the captain and the invasion will begin with the Parade of Pirates down the city’s historic Bayshore Boulevard.
Thousands will watch the invasion from the shores of downtown and on bridges across the waterways.
Parade Of Pirates
The Parade of Pirates is the third-largest parade in the country. To celebrate the takeover of Tampa, Ye Mystic Krewe of Gasparilla will “share their wealth” by tossing beads, candy, and other treasures to crowds of people gathered along the 4.5-mile parade route. The parade started in 1904 and this year will have more than 103 floats, five marching bands, and over 50 social organizations, known as krewes.
The Parade of Pirates is free to the public, but there is reserved bleacher seating available to purchase.
Each year, the weekend before the Parade of Pirates is the Children’s Parade. The alcohol-free event gives the kid pirates a chance to celebrate. It’s been part of the Gasparilla season tradition since 1947. The parade has 125 krewes, marching bands, dance and school performances, and community organizations, all dressed in their pirate best! This parade also takes place along Bayshore Boulevard.
Before the invasion and after the parade celebration, crowds will gather downtown for Pirate Fest. This year, it’s bigger than ever before with stages of live entertainment in Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park and MacDill Park. Concerts will take place before the parade until 3 p.m. and then after the parade at 5:30 p.m.
Why Is It Called Gasparilla?
Gasparilla gets its name from legendary pirate José Gaspar. Known as the “last of the Buccaneers,” he terrorized the west coast of Florida in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. Legend has it that when he died, he left buried treasure somewhere along the coast.
The ship, the José Gasparilla, was commissioned by Ye Mystic Krewe of Gasparilla in 1954. It’s a replica of a West Indiaman used in the 18th century. It’s built of steel and has three masts that stand 100 feet tall. When it wasn’t invading the city, it docked at the Tarpon Weigh Station near downtown.
About Ye Mystic Krewe Of Gasparilla
Ye Mystic Krewe of Gasparilla is made up of members who don’t just uphold their legendary mascot, José Gaspar, but also represent a charitable organization in Tampa. When they’re not hosting the annual parade and invasion, they are giving back to the community by visiting local children’s hospitals, MacDonald’s Training Center, and James A. Haley Veterans Hospital.
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