Since 1904, proud pirates have gathered to celebrate Gasparilla, a uniquely Tampanian festival. If you’re planning to grab your pirate patch and plucky parrot to cheer the return of the Jose Gasparilla for the 101st Gasparilla Pirate Fest on January 28th, 2017, here’s some handy information about the history of the festivities, this year’s plans, and downtown Tampa road closures.
The History of the Gasparilla Pirate Festival
The Gasparilla Pirate Fest celebrates the legendary Jose Gaspar, a mythical pirate who is believed to have been invented by John Gomez in a brochure for the Boca Grande Hotel in Charlotte Harbor. Conflicting tales tell of a Spanish naval officer who was either exiled because of romantic scandal and turned to piracy or who turned to piracy because of a cruel captain.
Both tales agree that Gaspar sailed around southwestern Florida and maintained a base at Charlotte Harbor. He plundered along the coasts of Florida, Louisiana, Mexico, Central America, and the Caribbean aboard his ship the Floridablanca. He supposedly died by his own hand, preferring to drown himself than be captured by the enemy and killed.
While not a rosy tale, it elicited excitement and led locals to create an exciting festival that continues to entice the public imagination to this day.
Gasparilla Road Closures in Downtown Tampa
If you’re planning to watch the parade in person or are looking to avoid road closures in downtown Tampa, beware. Before heading out, make sure to check one of the following maps or lists. Alternatively, call 511 or visit the 511 website to stay up-to-date on any additional road closures or traffic news. The city of Tampa has compiled information on road closures, best places to park, and alternative routes in this handy pdf.
Piratefest kicks off early this year and runs from 9 AM to 9 PM. Multiple stages will host musical acts and live entertainment—all free. Stages will be set up at Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park (Ashley and Twiggs), MacDill Park (Ashley and Whiting), The Sail Pavilion at the Tampa Convention Center, and Ferg’s Live Tampa (Jefferson and Channelside Drive).
The festivities continue with the Gasparilla Invasion, which is planned for 11:30-1:00 PM. Across the smooth waters of Tampa Bay, marauding pirates will sail numerous vessels—a veritable flotilla—to the Tampa Convention Center, lead by the spectacular Jose Gasparilla. The pirates will then demand the key to the city from the mayor.
The parade is expected to begin around 2 PM at the intersection of Bay to Bay Blvd. and Bayshore. The procession will travel down Bayshore to Brorein Street, go east on Brorein, and then turn north onto Ashley Drive, ending at Cass Street. (Need a map of the parade route?)
Road closures will begin at 3 AM on Platt St. and more roads will be closed throughout the day, including parts of Brorein Street and Ashley Drive (7 AM) and Kennedy Blvd (9 AM). This list help illustrate some of the road closures.
The Winters & Yonkers offices are located on Swann Ave, close to the parade route. We expect the office to be inaccessible Saturday due to festivities, however, you can always reach out to us via our contact form.
Enjoying Gasparilla Safely
Gasparilla is a free, fun event that draws large crowds. Buccaneers should be sure to carry identification and cash for emergencies and ensure that their cell phones are charged. Sometimes during large gatherings, it is difficult to get cell reception. If you’re planning on hitting the festivities with a group, have a plan to meet at a specific location if you get separated.
There will be loud noises and plenty of people in costumes. Let children know in advance so they aren’t frightened, and bring noise-cancelling headphones for those who are sensitive to loud sounds.
We hope you enjoy the Gasparilla festivities.