PHOTOS: Children's Gasparilla Extravaganza

By Virginia Johnson, Reporter
Last Updated: Sunday, January 21, 2018, 9:23 AM EST

They come with one goal -- pirate booty.

  • Children's Gasparilla Extravaganza
  • For a list of Gasparilla 2018 events, click here

Zane Ciccarone, 8, expected more than 1000 beads - even if it meant stealing other people‘s beads.

He realized that is inappropriate behavior, but it is Gasparilla, after all.

“That’s what I have to do. Pirates do that,” Ciccarone explained, brandishing his plastic pirate sword with a sweet laugh.

These are little, but hardened pirates, and they try to explain this Tampa Bay tradition.

“Loud, crowded, and very fun” is how 7-year-old Jillian Valladares explained it.

Her grandmother comes early every year to secure a great spot for the start of the 1.6 mile parade route along Bayshore Boulevard.

This is her 6th year. But the children’s parade is been going on for many more -- it’s been a part of Gasparilla celebrations since 1947.

It’s the family friendly, alcohol-free precursor to the coming January 27th adult tomfoolery of the Gasparilla Invasion and Parade of Pirates.

The parade consisted of more than 100 different units. That means floats, community organizations, school groups, and even dancers from local dance academies.

More than 13,000 people marched, rode, walked and threw beads to the crowd estimated at more than 100,000 people.

There was only one glitch with the entire event, and it was because of one of the most unlikely things – the government shutdown.

U.S. Special Forces could not perform their scheduled jumps to land on Bayshore Boulevard before and after the parade.

That’s because the activity was not considered part of the critical services that will continue during the government shutdown.

“We knew earlier this week when we talked to SOCOM that if the government shutdown, we wouldn’t be able to have the jumps, unfortunately,” said Maiken Stefany, the Director of Operations at Event Fest, the group that organizes the parade. “They’ve done this for years and we love them. But it’s out of their hands.”