Step into my shoes for a minute… You’re the mother of two teen boys and a girlie-girl who’s eight. You’ve been invited to experience the “Children’s Gasparilla Parade,” something you’ve never heard of. Now imagine telling those teen boys, “We’re going to the children’s parade while we’re in Florida.” That statement implies we are not going to Busch Gardens, at least not on parade day.
The boys were not excited about the Children’s Gasparilla Parade. To their credit, they did not complain, drag their feet, make sarcastic comments or sneer. They came along, no bribes (or threats) required. And they were surprised! Very, very surprised!
History of the Children’s Gasparilla Parade
The Children’s Gasparilla Parade is named for legendary pirate Jose Gaspar, “last of the Buccaneers,” who terrorized the coastal waters of West Florida during the late 1700’s through 1821. Gaspar captured 36 ships in his first twelve years as a pirate. Before “retiring” from pirate life, Gaspar decided to raid one last merchant ship. Too late, the crew realized that the merchant ship was a warship in disguise. The Navy ship won the bloody battle, but to avoid capture, Gasparilla wrapped himself in heavy chain and jumped to his death in the roiling sea.
Rumors persisted that Gasparilla left an enormous fortune buried somewhere on the west Florida shore. The treasure has never been recovered, but the mythical pirate’s escapades left a colorful impression on Floridians. When the city of Tampa planned its first city festival, the legendary Gasparilla inspired the theme. The first Gasparilla festival in 1904 was such a success that the Mardi Gras-like festival continues today. The week-long festival each January begins with the family-friendly, alcohol-free Children’s Gasparilla Parade. The traditional (adult, more Mardi Gras-like) festival wraps up the weeklong party the following weekend. For more, read the full history here.
I could go on, but the photos tell the story better. Enjoy this glimpse into the Children’s Gasparilla Parade… and find out what the teens think. Read on!
The Day Begins with the Preschoolers Stroll
The day continues with an exciting display by the United States Special Operation Jump Team – The Para-Commandos. They put on quite a show and bring the U.S. Flag to the parade. Watching the commandos freefall before gently floating to the ground certainly adds to the fun factor.
The Highlight of the Day: The Children’s Gasparilla Parade
At the end of the day, it’s all about the kids.
In case you’re still wondering… Yes, the teens had a blast!
And Ellie did too!
Tips to Enjoy the Children’s Gasparilla Parade
- Arrive early! More than 300,000 people attend the extravaganza on Bayshore Boulevard. Arrive early to stake out a great spot along the parade route and to get the best parking. Some people parked more than a mile away.
- Bring a wagon or cart. Lugging beach chairs, blankets, picnics, snacks, and sunscreen can get tiring. The experienced guests brought wheels to lug stuff around.
- Bring hand wipes/sanitizer. The city provides lots of porta-potties, which is great, but…
- Remember sunscreen. Even an overcast day like the one we had still means hours of exposure. Wear sunscreen!
- Relax! It’s a pirate parade. Enjoy!!! The whole thing is so well done and people are quite friendly.