Gasparilla started back in the early 20th century as a modest festival patterned after New Orleans' Mardi Gras, but with a theme that celebrated the myth of Tampa's pirate heritage.
These days, the early months of the year are called "Gasparilla season" in Tampa, and almost every weekend seems to bring some kind of Gasparilla activity, from parades to art shows to road races.
But this weekend is the "real" Gasparilla weekend. The festival that's a direct descendent of that original event is set for Friday and Saturday in downtown Tampa and the environs.
Friday's big event is the Pre-Invasion Celebration, with the Hip Abduction (6 p.m.), Howie Day (7:30 p.m.) and the Swon Brothers (9 p.m.) providing live music on downtown streets.
At 11:30 a.m. Saturday, ersatz pirates act out an invasion of Tampa in the waters just off Bayshore Boulevard near downtown. That's followed by the massive Parade of Pirates, which starts at 2:30 p.m. at Bayshore and Bay-to-Bay boulevards and works its way up Bayshore and into the heart of downtown.
Lots of streets will be closed, and parking spaces and lots near Bayshore Boulevard will be filled early. So allow plenty of time and count on doing a lot of walking or riding public transportation.
Details: Jan. 29-30, Downtown Tampa and surrounding areas. Hours: 6-10 p.m. Friday, 10 a.m.-10 p.m. Saturday. Admission: $18.95 Friday, free Saturday. Information: gasparillapiratefest.com.
-- Marty Clear