Video:History of Tampa's Gasparilla Festivalwith Jonathan Stewart
Tampa's Gasparilla Festival is a fun, week-long event with plenty of activities for the whole family. Learn more about the history of Tampa's Gasparilla Festival.See Transcript
Transcript:History of Tampa's Gasparilla FestivalHeld during the last week of each January in Tampa for at least a hundred years now is the Gasparilla Pirate Festival. It offers a history that is just as storied and dramatic as any tale involving these plunderers of the high seas.
History of Tampa's Gasparilla FestivalThe festival was named for the legendary pirate known as Jose Gaspar. He was considered to be one of the last of the Buccaneers. His reign of terror over the coastal waters of West Florida took place during the late 18th century and early 19th century. Like with many events, this one started based on a legend of buried treasure.
It was thought that all of Gaspar's plundering meant there was a vast fortune that he must have left behind. But even if it's not true, it’s one of those great stories that everyone likes to dream about. Tampa's social and civic leadership decided to make Jose Gaspar their patron symbol around 1904. From there, a city celebration was born.
Gaspar's Popularity Grows Into Tampa's Gasparilla FestivalTo get attention for the event, a group of forty people decided to form the "Ye Mystic Krewe of Gasparilla" and planned a mock pirate attack on Tampa. They dressed in full pirate regalia with masks and costumes, arriving on horseback to capture the city. This was the start of what would become the festival's parade.
It was so popular that it then became a tradition for the city. And, from there, it only got grander and lengthier, becoming a week-long shebang with food, parties, music and a fireworks extravaganza. Who doesn’t love pirates? At least the old school, swashbuckling ones.
Tampa's Gasparilla Festival in Recent YearsThe event has evolved over the years with pirates arriving by both the sea, on a replica pirate ship, as well as by land. Each year, the pirates take over and the city gives up with the mayor offering a key to the city. Starting in 2008, an older tradition of then returning the key at the end of the celebration and returning to the sea with a promise of a new attack the following year.
Some things have changed over the years, including moving the festival from February to January. The festival now also includes activities for both old and young alike. Be sure to take in this history and relive the wild days of the pirates by visiting what has become a street party similar to Mardi Gras but one that is toned down enough to involve the entire family. With a week's worth of events each year, this is the place to become the swashbuckling pirate you always dreamed about.
Arrrh! I'm Jonathon Stewart, with About.com.
About videos are made available on an "as is" basis, subject to the User Agreement.