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The History of Tampa’s Gasparilla Pirate Fest

As we get into the swing of the new year, do you find yourself itching for some excitement? Or maybe even…the chance to see a pirate legend come to life? If so, it’s time to pull out your hooks and ready your eyepatches, as Tampa’s Bay’s most time-honored tradition of Gasparilla returns this January!

What Is Gasparilla?

First conceived in 1904, Gasparilla is a pirate-themed parade created around the inspiring myths of 18th-century pirate Jose Gaspar. No one really knows the truth behind these legends, but for 118 years since Gasparilla was first conceived at the Tampa Morning Tribune, members of the Ye Mystic Krewe of Gasparilla (YMKG) have been invading Tampa Bay and joining in on the parade festivities.

While the first members of the YMKG rode in on horseback, the Gasparilla Pirate Fest now boasts the only fully rigged pirate ship in the world. Originally a social club created with 50 members, the YMKG now has hundreds of pirates that blast the cannons and fly the flags of the ship known as Jose Gasparilla II as they sail through Hillsborough Bay. After the festivities, the “invaders” are kicked out, and the YMKG ride back out onto the sea as they begin plotting their next raid.

When Will Gasparilla Be Held This Year?

If a real-life pirate ship sounds like something your kids would leap at the chance to see, the alcohol-free Children’s Gasparilla Parade is being held on January 22nd, 2022. For all the adults who stand fearless in the face of scurvy and are ready to down a pint, Adult Gasparilla Parade on January 29th, 2022 and the Gasparilla Adult Knight Parade on February 12, 2022. You can also participate in the Gasparilla Distance Classic with distances ranging from a 5K to a half marathon or you can enjoy Music or Art Festivals during this time of year!

We hope to see you on Bayshore!

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