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Pirates take over Tampa Bay
Gasparilla celebrates annual invasion
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On Saturday, Jan. 25, the highly-anticipated Gasparilla Pirate Fest gets underway as the Gasparilla Flotilla sets sail at 11:30 a.m. from the south end of Hillsborough Bay. Led by the world’s only fully-rigged pirate ship, the Jose Gasparilla, a flotilla of pleasure craft follows along to participate in the annual reenactment of the historic pirate invasion.
TAMPA – Named for legendary pirate, Jose Gaspar, who terrorized the coastal waters of West Florida during the 18th and early 19th centuries, Tampa Bay’s destination-wide annual Gasparilla celebration kicks off each January with a full schedule of exciting pirate-themed events.

From a four-mile long parade of pirates and period memorabilia on display, to specialty packages and a waterfront half-marathon, the entire city of Tampa unloads untold Gasparilla treasures for visitors and locals to plunder.

The Captain of Ye Mystic Krewe of Gasparilla, accompanied by an elite corps of his finest mates, are planning to visit downtown Tampa on Tuesday, Jan. 21, arriving at approximately 11:30 a.m. accompanied by the customary theatrical noise props (cannons) to “discuss” with Mayor Bob Buckhorn the advantages in surrendering the city of Tampa in advance of Saturday’s historic Gasparilla Invasion. The actual negotiation is rumored to begin around noon, with the Mayor respectfully escorted to meet up with the Captain on Franklin Street, between Kennedy and Madison.

On Saturday, Jan. 25, the highly-anticipated Gasparilla Pirate Fest gets underway as the Gasparilla Flotilla sets sail at 11:30 a.m. from the south end of Hillsborough Bay. Led by the world’s only fully-rigged pirate ship, the Jose Gasparilla, a flotilla of pleasure craft follows along to participate in the annual reenactment of the historic pirate invasion.

Upon landing at the waterfront Tampa Convention Center, the Mayor will hand over the keys to the city and the official celebration begins.

The Gasparilla Invasion Brunch runs from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at TCC, followed by the 3.8-mile long Gasparilla Parade of Pirates in downtown Tampa from 2 to 5:30 p.m., including more than 90 elaborate floats, 14 marching bands, and more than 50 distinct Krewes. Along Kennedy Boulevard in downtown Tampa, the Gasparilla Pirate Fest Street Festival takes place from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m., complete with live entertainment, food and a colorful cast of characters.

The Gasparilla Parade of the Pirates will travel down Bayshore from Bay to Bay into downtown Tampa. The Parade will cross into downtown over the Brorein Street bridge, turn north on Ashley Drive, and end at Cass Street and Ashley Drive in the Cultural Arts District in downtown Tampa.

Reserved Gasparilla bleacher seating tickets are $38, per person (tax included). For additional information or to purchase Gasparilla Invasion Brunch, Gasparilla Parade tickets and/or officially licensed Gasparilla merchandise, please log onto Tickets can also be ordered over the phone by calling EventFest’s Gasparilla Ticket Reservation Line at 813-251-8844. A ticket representative will be available between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m., Monday – Friday.

Ye Mystic Krewe of Gasparilla has presented Tampa’s historic Gasparilla Invasion and Parade of the Pirates since 1904.

New in 2014, the official Gasparilla Pirate Fest after party – Light Up The Night - will take place in Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park from 5:30 – 10 p.m. and will host some of the regions hottest cover bands from the live entertainment stage. The night will conclude with the after party’s first ever fireworks show.

An additional Latin themed entertainment stage, the Gasparilla Invasion Stage, is scheduled to be located downtown in MacDill Park, on the west side of Ashley Drive along the river between Whiting and Jackson Streets. SOL CARIBE will provide hot salsa sounds both pre and post parade in 2014 from MacDIll Park along the Riverwalk in downtown Tampa.

Area restaurants and hotels also participate in the weekend-long celebration. The Wine Studio will offer $5 grottos of Sangria and $7 Pirate Pizzas, Gaspar’s Grotto is hosting its second Annual Gasparilla Eve Pirates Gathering with live music and vendors, and the Saddlebrook Resort Tampa will welcome visitors with a special Gasparilla Getaway package, including transportation to and from the festivities.

For those who want to join the invasion and celebration by water and don’t have a boat, the Tampa Water Taxi Company provides hours of fun and frivolity with a special tour that includes meeting up with Gaspar and following him – while keeping out of harm’s way – to the Tampa Convention Center.

At the Henry B. Plant Museum, the new exhibit, Gasparilla: A Tampa Tradition, explores Tampa’s premier party. Find out who the motley crew was, and take in some of the pirate booty and things of beauty during the city’s only exhibit of Krewe of Gasparilla memorabilia, including coronation robes, ball invitations, programs, crowns and costumes, as well as vintage photographs of the invasion, parade floats, pirates and royal courts. Gasparilla: A Tampa Tradition will run from Jan. 17 through Feb. 23. Film footage from the 1920s titled "Memories of Gasparilla Festivals" will also be shown continuously. A National Historic Landmark, the museum is open Tuesday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Sunday, noon to 5 p.m. Admission is $10 per adult, $7 for seniors (65+ yrs.), $7 for students and $5 for children (4-12 yrs.).

The celebration continues with the Gasparilla Distance Classic, which takes place Feb. 21-23 and includes a 5K, 8K, 15K, half-marathon and even a run for kids ages 2-10. Athletes can participate in a single event or variety of combinations of two or more. All races take place along Bayshore Boulevard. A Health & Fitness Expo will be held in conjunction at the Tampa Convention Center.

On March 1 and 2, the Raymond James Gasparilla Festival of the Arts takes place in downtown Tampa at the Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park, featuring works from some of the country’s most acclaimed artists and rising stars. Featured art includes ceramic, digital, drawing, fiber, glass, jewelry, mixed media, painting, photography, printmaking, sculpture, watercolor and wood. The esteemed event also features the works of local young artists, live entertainment and a children’s art activity area.

Also in March is the Gasparilla Music Festival, which takes place in Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park and Kiley Gardens Park on the 8th & 9th, and will feature musical acts from a wide variety of genres on several stages and cuisine from the region's top restaurants. This year’s lineup includes, The Flaming Lips, Los Amigos Invisibles, Delta Spirit, Jason Isbell, Anders Osborne and more. General, VIP and Higher Ground admissions are available for the two-day event.

Celebrating some of the best independent filmmakers from around the world, the Gasparilla International Film Festival kicks off March 19, featuring five days of Florida and world premiere showings, shorts, indie films, educational panels and more.

For more information and events calendar, go to, or follow us on Facebook (Visit Tampa Bay) or Twitter (@VisitTampaBay).
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