Ahoy, mateys! It’s time to hoist the colors, dawn your most dastardly garb, and set sail for an invasion found nowhere else in the world!
On Saturday, January 28, the city of Tampa–just 90 minutes away from Walt Disney World Resort–is hosting its annual Gasparilla Pirate Festival, and it is every wannabe Jack Sparrow’s dream.
Founded in 1904, Gasparilla is a fun reenactment and celebration of the legacy of the infamously legendary pirate Jose Gaspar, who was said to be a real-life pirate that terrorized Tampa Bay in the late 18th and early 19th Centuries. Superficially described as a Pirate-themed Mardi Gras celebration, the celebration is led by bead-throwing krewes of Tampa’s own honorary pirates, championed most by Ye Mystic Krewe of Gasparilla.
According to the legend,
“As an aristocrat by birth and officer in the Spanish Navy, Gaspar was well educated, possessed courtly manners and had all the appearances of a fine gentleman. When Jose Gaspar died, he supposedly left an untold fortune in buried treasure somewhere along the Florida coast. Though that treasure has never been discovered, the story of the swashbuckling Gaspar was unearthed and his memory revived in 1904 when Ye Mystic Krewe of Gasparilla was formed and adopted the pirate as patron rogue of their city-wide celebration.”
The celebration begins with the Gasparilla Pirate invasion by sea. An authentic pirate ship filled to the brim with swashbuckling buccaneers sails into Downtown Tampa and land by the Tampa Convention Center. Pirates will rush to City Hall to the office of Mayor Jane Castor, where she will surrender and hand over the Key to the City. And that ship, the Jose Gasparilla, is joined by an armada of civilian vessels. Then, there is a street parade–one of the largest in the country–along the stretch of waterfront called Bayshore Boulevard, entertaining close to 500,000 people. While there are some ticketed areas, the parade and street party that follows are free to attend, with several drinking stations for those over 21. There is also a kid-friendly parade each year one week earlier.
Here’s a video:
A love of pirates of some level is arguably rooted in every Disney fan, thanks to Walt Disney’s own fascination with the brood in creating the iconic attraction “Pirates of the Caribbean” and in choosing Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island as his first live-action feature film. And who can forget Captain Hook and the merry crew of the Jolly Roger? Thanks to the likes of Hollywood buccaneers like Jerry Bruckheimer, Gore Verbinski, and Johnny Depp, Pirates of the Caribbean took an even deeper hold on Disney fans, romanticizing the lawless lifestyle as only Disney could. If you consider yourself a Disney Pirate, then Gasparilla is the place for you!
If you want to attend, the Gasparilla Pirate Invasion will take place from 11:30 am – 1 pm, and the Parade will run its 4.5-mile route into Downtown from 2 pm – 6 pm. Click here for parking, road closures, and other need-to-know details about the day.
We at Disney Fanatic will continue to update our readers on Disney Parks news and stories as more developments come to light.