The Gasparilla Pirate Festival is a large parade and a host of related community events held almost every year since 1904 in Tampa, Florida celebrating the apocryphal legend of José Gaspar (also known as Gasparilla), a mythical Spanish pirate who supposedly operated in Southwest Florida in the early 1800s.
Tampa’s Gasparilla season runs from mid-January to early March and features three large parades. The focal point of Gasparilla is the Parade of Pirates, which features a friendly invasion by Ye Mystic Krewe of Gasparilla and a large parade along Bayshore Boulevard into downtown. The Parade of Pirates (which is often referred to as the Gasparilla Parade by locals) is held on the last Saturday in January. It is the third largest parade in the United States with an economic impact of over $20 million and an average attendance of about 300,000. Other major parades during the season are the Gasparilla Children’s Parade, which is held on Bayshore Boulevard one week before the main parade, and the Sant’Yago Illuminated Knight Parade, which is organized by the Krewe of the Knights of Sant’Yago in the historic neighborhood of Ybor City two weeks after the main parade.
Tampa hosts many other Gasparilla-related or monikered events during its Gasparilla season, including the Gasparilla Film Festival, the Gasparilla Festival of the Arts, the Gasparilla Distance Classic, and the Gasparilla Music Festival, with a changing lineup of smaller events held year to year. The Gasparilla Parade of Pirates once coincided with the Florida State Fair, which was held at Plant Field at the end of the traditional parade route in downtown Tampa. The close connection between the fair and Gasparilla ended in the mid-1970s, when the fair moved to a much larger location east of Tampa.
Gasparilla Pirate Festival photo’s: