TAMPA, Fla. — Gasparilla season is here!
The celebration gets underway in a few days. Thousands of revelers are expected to line Bayshore Boulevard.
The Gasparilla Pirate Fest takes place, Saturday January 25.
Authorities have said they've been preparing for months.
The parade takes place from 2 p.m. to about 5:30 p.m. The 4.5 mile parade begins at Bay to Bay Boulevard and Bayshore Boulevard. It continues along Bayshore to Brorein Street, turns east on Brorein Street, then north on Ashley Drive. The parade ends at Cass Street and Ashley Drive.
There are many locations open to the public along Bayshore Boulevard and in downtown Tampa for viewing the parade. Reserved seating is also available.
The Parade of the Pirates will boast over 140 units – including more than 103 elaborate floats, 5 marching bands, over 50 distinct Krewes and, of course, the infamous YMKG pirates!
The event is free to the public.
If you're attending Gasparilla, here are some things to know:
- Safety: A dozen law enforcement agencies, including the FBI, will be walking and stationed at the parade to make sure the festivities are safe. "We are asking our partners, whether you are a Tampa police officer or a deputy sheriff to remain vigilant," said Hillsborough County Sheriff Chad Chronister.
- See Something, Say something: Law enforcement officials are asking that revelers also remain vigilant and alert an authority if something is off: "Whether it be minuscule or you don't think it's a big deal, if you have something that 's off, your hand stands up, your radar goes off, something just doesn't seem right, please tell us," said FDLE Special Agent in Charge Mark Brutnell.
- Attending the Parade? Have a plan: Tampa's police chief Brian Dugan advises families to have a plan just in case someone is separated during the celebration. Chief Dugan also advised to take a picture of the family before going to the parade to use in an emergency.
- Bead Free Bay: Tampa Mayor Jane Castor has launched a "Bead Free Bay" initiative. The city is asking parade-goers not to throw colorful beads in or around the Bay. "We have to insure that our Bay is clean for our marine-life and for all of our enjoyment," Mayor Castor said.
- Citizen initiative sparked Bead Free Bay: Demetri Sedita, 16, and Ethan Sedita, 13, first recognized there was a problem with Gasparilla beads polluting the Bay. The brothers formed a nonprofit, Green Gasparilla, to deal with the issue. After Gasparilla, they will partner with divers from the Florida Aquarium to try and retrieve beads that have gone into the water. "We were thinking we see all the beads that are falling in the water, but what's really happening to them? They're not disappearing. They're sitting at the bottom of the channel and breaking into smaller pieces," said Demetri Sedita.
- More information: For everything Gasparilla, including updates, safety tips, and traffic alerts, text GASPARILLA to 888-777.
Not done celebrating Gasparilla at the end of January? Here are several more events running through April:
- February 8: Sant'Yago Knight Parade: The Knight Parade follows Tampa's annual Gasparilla celebration. The Krewe of the Knights of Sant' Yago has hosted it every year since 1974, and it is considered the largest of its kind in the Southeast. The parade is a colorful celebration of civic pride, beaming with illuminated floats, costumed participants, music and dancing, and lots of beads.
- February 2-23: Gasparilla Distance Classic: Test your endurance while running through paradise and raising money for charity. Athletes of all levels can take on the 5k run or walk, 8k, 15k, Half Marathon, Michelob Ultra challenges, and more! Every stride you make at the race benefits charitable youth organizations across the Tampa Bay area. Since 1978, the Gasparilla Distance Classic has donated $3.9 million to the Boys & Girls Clubs of Tampa, Girls Inc. of Pinellas, The Friends of Tampa Parks & Recreation, and youth running related programs.
- February 29 - March 1: Gasparilla Festival of the Arts: Raymond James Stadium transforms into one giant outdoor museum with hundreds of artists showcasing their work. From pottery and photography to glass, digital mediums, paintings, mixed media, wood and water colors, it’s an imaginarium of the senses. This year is the 45th annual Gasparilla Festival of the Arts event.
- March 7-8: Gasparilla Music Festival: The Gasparilla Music Festival celebrates the best of Tampa Bay's diverse music scene, highlighting local emerging acts and nationally recognized headliners. The 8th annual festival will host over 40 fun and eclectic acts to be announced. With two full days of music across four stages, the 2019 festival will be the biggest yet.
- March 17-22: Gasparilla International Film Festival: The Gasparilla International Film Festival is a cultural arts institution that inspires, educates and entertains through its annual celebration of film, year-round events, community outreach and social awareness initiatives, while also supporting and cultivating the film industry of Tampa Bay and Florida and making an economic impact on our region.
- April 17-19: Gasparilla Concours d'Elegance: With the newest addition to Tampa's festivities, the most rare, original, exquisite, and historically important automobiles and motorcycles will be on display.