The Gasparilla Pirate Festival is an annual celebration held in the city of Tampa, Florida. Held each year in late January and hosted by Ye Mystic Krewe of Gasparilla and the City of Tampa, it celebrates the apocryphal legend of José Gaspar (Gasparilla), supposedly a Spanish pirate captain who operated in Southwest Florida. The theme is an "invasion" by Gasparilla and his men, which begins when the "Krewe" (made up of residents of the city) arrives on a 165' long pirate ship, the Jose Gaspar, in Tampa Bay and land near downtown Tampa. The mayor of Tampa then lends the key of the city to the pirate captain and a parade ensues down Bayshore Boulevard, one of Tampa's major streets. The krewes throw beads, coins and other items while shooting blank pistols from floats during the parade. The average attendance for the event is over 400,000 people. The parade is broadcast every year on WFLA-TV, and has been since 1955. According to the event's official website, 2003's Gasparilla parade affected an economic impact of nearly 23 million dollars to Tampa.
Krewe memberships are highly sought after in many social circles in Tampa, and many celebrate ethnic and cultural themes. The Ye Mystic Krewe of Gasparilla, the organization which founded and sponsors the parade, is the oldest krewe in Tampa, and among its most prestigious. Members of the many krewes that now participate spend a great deal of money on beads and floats.
A week before the "invasion" and the main parade, Ye Mystic Krewe of Gasparilla sponsors a family-oriented children's parade and "Piratechnic Extravaganza," with fireworks launched over Tampa Bay. 2006's fireworks display included an impressive airborne element, where an imaginary sea battle took place between a pirate ship in the harbor and a plane which shot off fireworks while doing acrobatic maneuvers.
A few weeks after the invasion, there is a more adult-oriented Sant'Yago Knight Parade (also known as the Gasparilla Knight Parade) in Ybor City, held in the evening and running into the early morning. Krewes have social events and parties throughout the year for members and hold philanthropic events for favored causes.
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