Tampa Bay’s mythological pirate, Jose Gaspar, will return in January to kick off Gasparilla Season with the Gasparilla Pirate Fest Jan. 31. The bead-filled celebration is Tampa’s signature event, where everyone is encouraged to dress up and find their inner pirate.
The Gasparilla Pirate Fest is one of the largest parades in the country. It attracts 300,000-500,000 people and stretches several miles along Bayshore Boulevard.
The invasion begins when Ye Mystic Krewe of Gasparilla sails the world’s only fully-rigged pirate ship, the Jose Gasparillainto downtown. The pirates disembark at the Tampa Convention Center, where the Mayor hands over the key to the city of Tampa and the celebration begins! The party rolls down Bayshore Boulevard and visitors cheer the elaborate floats, marching bands, and krewes flinging millions of beads into outstretched hands.
The Saturday prior to The Gasparilla Pirate Fest, the mini-pirates take over Bayshore Boulevard in the Gasparilla Children’s Parade. This family friendly event follows a shorter route than its grownup counterpart. It includes dance troops, preschooler’s stroll and more pirates. After the parade comes the “Piratechnic” Extravaganza, one of the largest firework shows in the country.
Gasparilla season continues with the Publix Gasparilla Distance Classic Feb. 21-22. The two-day event attracts thousands of runners, from casual athletes competing in the 5K Stroller Roll to world-class athletes competing for prize money in the half-marathon. With the courses winding through portions of picturesque downtown Tampa, the Gasparilla Distance Classic is one of the most scenic races in the United States.
The Gasparilla Festival of the Arts, Feb. 28-March 1, turns Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park into a giant outdoor museum. Since 1970, the festival has attracted more than 250,000 people every year to enjoy some of the top artists in the world showcasing their talents in ceramics, glass, photography and several other styles of art.
One week later, March 7-8, The Gasparilla Music Festival invades Curtis Hixon Park. In its fifth year, The Gasparilla Music Festival has quickly become one of the top music weekends of the year in the Southeast. Over 60 acts including Gogol Bordello, Gaslight Anthem and Trampled By Turtles will rock across four stages in two days in 2015. The proceeds benefit local youth music programs.
The streets of downtown Tampa turn into a mini Tour de France course during the Gasparilla Criterium and Action Sports Festival March 21-22. It’s the kickoff event on the National Criterium Calendar for professional racers, but the fun also includes children’s races, a corporate team charity relay and a 3K Beer Dash for those who prefer to keep their feet on the ground!
And The Gasparilla International Film Festival March 24-29 in Channelside Bay Plaza caps off Gasparilla Season. Since 2006, the festival has celebrated, supported and cultivated the film industry of Tampa Bay and Florida. Former “Boardwalk Empire” star Michael Shannon and “Brokeback Mountain” star Jake Gyllenhaal are among the actors who have attended the festival.
For additional information about Gasparilla Season, go to www.visitampabay.com