It has been two weeks since one of the last great Tampa parades… did you know that Tampa leads as one of the cities with the most parades? In my hometown, parades come often, but every float has the appearance of a Ford Expedition covered in shrink wrap– so it gets boring. But Tampa takes its parades seriously, as seen during my visit to the February 7 Gasparilla and February 14 Sant’ Yago Knight Parade. Here are the highlights:

– No parking. Either be on time, bring about $10 to park in a decent spot, or prepare to walk far.
– Ahoy! Parties! At Gasparilla, almost every house within a block from the parade had a party. Even the parties went all-out as band stands were set up, tables filled with alcohol, and pirate decorations were
everywhere. At Sant’ Yago, every club along the route had party-goers yelling from the balconies. Yes, I somewhat felt like a loser by not being in these seemingly exclusive parties… but if you make believe you’re having fun– you will!
– Did I mention ‘drunk’ people? Maybe all the young’uns there weren’t exactly “drunk” but everyone sure acted like it. Everyone laughed too loud, hump-danced at every hip-hop song heard, and complained too loud at the lines for food or bathrooms.

– Each parade has bodies occupying every square foot. Germaphobes should just stay at home.
– Pirates are everywhere! You will see every version of Captain Jack Sparrow in addition to half-assed and full-assed pirate costumes on the floats and in the crowd. Yes, no one should ever fear getting in the mood. The floats themselves are very impressive. There are NO decorations in the back of a pickup. All these floats are actual rollling castles, or pirate ships, or a party hut. These floats are rolling clubs and floating Christmas lights.
– Beads! Beads! Beads! They are thrown from everywhere! People actually treasure the unusual looking ones.
– Gasparilla is the slightly kid-friendlier parade. If you plan to bring kids to Sant’ Yago– you have been warned. Once the parade ends, expect a few shirts to… uhh… come off. Particularly, the female shirts.
Okay, while the idea of going to a parade may seem lame, (come on, you spent Valentine’s day watching pirates in floating ships? Loser!) I had a blast! And I didn’t even drink, wasn’t invited into an exclusive party, nor did I have a time to breathe.


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