Most of us began decorating for Gasparilla at the beginning of January, right after we took down our holiday lights and decorations. Wreaths made of beads, pirate flags, feathers and skull & cross bones grace the front doors of many homes in our area.
Kids of all ages get excited this time of year as they decorate their wagons, put on their swashbuckling costumes and catch pirate booty! Here in Tampa, we began celebrating last week with the Children's Festival & Parade! Finishing off a great day of pillaging and plundering, the kids enjoy a "Piratechnic" Extravaganza, a.k.a fireworks.
Local boat owners gear up their vessels for the Pirate Invasion as they plan to defend the city against the legendary pirate, Jose' Gaspar, and his crew of plundering pirates.
Copyright: © The Tampa Bay Times
How about a little history of Gasparilla?
In the 18th and 19th centuries, Jose' Gaspar, a young Spanish aristocrat that turned pirate, terrorized the coastal waters of West Florida. Plundering any ship flying the flag of Spain as payback to a woman that tried to frame him for stealing the Spanish crown jewels. Some say he plundered over 400 ships, though Gaspar's diary only boasts of 36 victories from 1784-1795.
In 1821, after many years of pillaging, Gaspar convinced his crew to go their separate ways and live their lives in peace... that is, until they saw a British ship. One last plunder, they thought. Their last hoorah. Gaspar and his crew closed in on the ship and as they got within cannon range, it was too late! The British ship dropped it's colors and raised the US flag! Jose' Gaspar was deceived, the seemingly defenseless British ship was actually a US Navy warship, the USS Enterprise. A bloody battle took place and left Gaspar's flagship burning. He wrapped a heavy chain around his waist, jumped overboard and sank into the ocean.
Legend has it, when Jose' Gaspar died, he left an untold fortune in buried treasure somewhere along the Florida coast. Though it's never been found, the story of Gaspar was discovered and his memory was revived by Ye Mystic Krewe of Gasparilla (YMKG) in 1904 and adopted as a city-wide celebration.
In 1904, a society editor for the Tribune had been working on a plan to produce a festival, a 3-4 day event to draw attention to the city. With the encouragement from George Hardee, a Collector of Customs, the annual 'May Day Festival' had turned into the Gasparilla Festival. Hardee encouraged civic leaders to create a "Mystic Krewe" to participate in the event and that is exactly what happened.
On May 4, 1904, tons of people lined the streets for the parade for the inaugural invasion as 50 members of Ye Mystic Krewe of Gasparilla 'invaded' the city on horseback wearing masks and costumes. And each year, to this day, Ye Mystic Crewe of Gasparilla, led by legendary pirate Jose' Gaspar, invades the City of Tampa. Defenseless to the Jose' Gasparilla, the Mayor surrenders the Key to the City of Tampa into the hands of the Captain of YMKG.
In 1911, YMKG had their first 'invasion' by water on a rented ship called Samuel T. Beacham. In 1937, the Krewe purchased their first ship, the Jose' Gaspar I. And the current ship, Jose' Gaspar II, was built especially for YMKG and was christened in 1954. The Jose' Gaspar II is the only dedicated pirate ship sailing in the world today.
Edwin Lambright, editor of the Tampa Morning Tribune, said "Tampa Society, and the Tampa public generally, were so enthusiastic about the first 'invasion' for the Mystic Krewe, that a citywide demand was voiced that the organization be made permanent." And that it has!
Here at Scrubin Uniforms, we are happy to live in sunny Tampa, Florida and hope that you get the chance sometime to come visit for our legendary Gasparilla Festival. Arrrghh!
Other Gasparilla festivities going on this season: Pirate Fest Street Festival, Invasion, Parade of Pirates, The Knight Parade, The Distance Classic, Festival of the Arts and Music Festival