Gasparilla Pirate Fest returns to Tampa

A parade, a faux invasion and live music highlight the city's biggest bash

January 23, 2014 

Every year, uncountable thousands of people converge on downtown Tampa for the Gasparilla Pirate Fest, the Mardi Gras-inspired celebration replete with a massive parade and cheap plastic beads.

It's Tampa's biggest and oldest annual celebration, dating back about a century. The 2014 Gasparilla Pirate Fest is set for Saturday.

The centerpiece is the "Parade of the Pirates," which runs for miles along Bayshore Boulevard, one the most beautiful streets in Tampa. The parade starts toward the west end of town, near Bay-to-Bay Boulevard, and heads up Bayshore into downtown Tampa. The parade gets going at 2 p.m. and should finish around 5:30.

But hard-core fans of pirates get into their costumes early and head down to the docks near the Tampa Convention Center. That's where a group of local businessmen, dressed as pirates and shooting off toy guns, arrive on a replica of a pirate ship and pretend to take over the City of Tampa. The best place to watch the ship pull in is probably from nearly Harbour Island or Davis Island. The ship sets sail at 11:30 a.m., cruises around the bay and lands at 1 p.m.

And all day long, from 10 a.m. until 10 p.m. Florida Avenue in downtown Tampa is home to the Gasparilla Pirate Fest Street Festival, with live entertainment from Matt Weiss, Southern Train, C'Nergy Band, Daniel B. Marshall and Sol Caribe.

Details: 10 a.m.-10 p.m. Saturday, Bayshore Boulevard and locations around downtown, Tampa. Tickets: Free. Information: www.gasparillapiratefest.com.

-- Marty Clear

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