ARG! Once a year executives trade neck ties for eye patches, throw beads instead of business cards, and Tampa falls into the hands of pirates (and beer cans, port-o-potties, and plastic wrappers). It was Gasparilla time!
For you non-Tampa natives, Gasparilla is a Tampa-made holiday where the city celebrates fictional Jose Gaspar, a pirate. Did pirates even visit Tampa? Who knows! I’m sure half the crowd cared more about the next beer booth than Jose Gaspar. Gasparilla begins with a crowd of pirates who demand the mayor of Tampa (Yes, Mayor Pam Iorio has a part in every Gasparilla) hand over the keys to the city. Then, festivities wind through downtown’s streets with pirates and other costumed revelers aboard crazily designed floats throwing beads at the drunk partiers watching from both sides. It’s chaos; it’s a rush;it’s freakin’ fun!
Because part of the parade route dances through a neighborhood, there have always been complaints about public urination, destruction of property, etc and this year’s Gasparilla brought about changes—good ones. I definitely saw more cops, but it didn’t seem to affect the mood of all the party-goers. I didn’t see any hands-on actions of cops taking on perps, but I’m sure the stupidity that accompanies beer and crowds was lessened. And my personal favorite—more portable toilets! A cluster of the toilets on every block—and I never saw a line! The parade route was also longer this year… part of the organizer’s plans to thin out the crowds near the neighborhoods and bring the party closer to downtown. Perhaps it was because of the early afternoon rain, but crowds around the neighborhood (where I danced) was definitely thinner. (That explains the bathroom lines!) Still, the mood equaled the craziness of past years… but not as stupid, drunk crazy.
Gasparilla has a formula for idiocy! You watch a parade of happy, costumed people. You scream. You drink beer. Wave your hands. People throw you free beads.
Oh yes… and leaving the parking garage in downtown led my poor red Ford to experience a flat tire (what? The second one in a year?!) and although my two manly passengers were eager to show off their car fixing powers, a high school-looking kid stepped out from the stream of people passing us (who were all yelling, “awwww poor sweetie. That sucks”) and helped put my replacement tire on. I didn’t catch his name, but he was a skinny guy, no shirt, pants below the waist exposing boxers, and hanging out with a tall black guy with dreads. Young and gangly, he was still able to recognize a confused lady with a flat tire. THANK YOU KID!!!!
Alas, further chaos ensued at Gasparilla’s end. It seemed half the streets in downtown were blocked off due to the parade. Cars parked on random streets, garages, paid areas and free were fighting to get back on the highway. Bruised by a flying corn on the cob (really), my car made it back to I-275 and pouted all the way home.
Weighed down by beads and craving hot dogs, I was satisfied all the way home.
Gasparilla visit: Jan 30, 2010
Click on my pictures to join the parade with me