After Fort Lauderdale, we began a return trek to Tampa to meet our new nephews from Haiti (who are adorable, happy, and loved!) and spend some time enjoying the free camping option of my in-laws’ driveway. By sheer luck, our visit to Tampa coincided with Gasparilla, a big festival and parade event in Tampa that takes place each year. We happened to go last year (another sheer luck moment) and had an enjoyable time. Before I go into too much detail, however, allow me to explain the purpose of Gasparilla. I thought it was just an opportunity for college students (and others who so desire) to partake of obscene amounts of alcohol and attempt to catch beads being thrown from boats while simultaneously trying not to fall into the bay waters. Alas, its current purpose may be just that, but the festival does have historical relevance.
I did a bit of quick research on Gasparilla and here’s what I learned courtesy of Gasparilla’s website. Jose Gaspar was a legendary pirate who lived an adventurous life terrorizing Florida’s coastal waters in the late 18th and early 19th century. His last ship raid in 1821 resulted in a bloody battle for Gaspar and his men who unknowingly selected to raid a disguised U.S. Naval Warship. According to the story, Gaspar took his own life as the U.S. commanding officer boarded the defeated pirate ship. Upon his death, he supposedly left buried treasure off the coast of Florida, although the said treasure has never been found. In 1904, Tampa’s social and civic leaders were planning a festival for the city and adopted the legendary Gasparilla as the theme for the event and created a mock surprise pirate attack on Tampa. And, so it continues. Every January in Tampa, pirates invade and folks gather to watch the pirate ship sail into the Bay. Beads are thrown, folks in pirate costumes invade the city, and talking like a pirate is perfectly acceptable. Who wouldn’t find some enjoyment with this?
Both last year and this year, we had the wonderful opportunity to join Chris’ family in attending a Gasparilla party at a house that overlooks the Bay. This gives us front row seats to watch the pirate ship sail by as well as provides us food and drink. While the college students took their places around the alcohol table and lined up for beer pong, I, the pregnant woman, carefully guarded the food table until parade time. The hummus was excellent, I might add.
At last, we heard the blast of the cannons. Off in the distance, preceded by many small boats, was Gaspar’s pirate ship. Think Mardi Gras…on water. Music was blasting and beads were flying. A good time was had by all.
Interestingly enough, during our attendance to Gasparilla last year, our Airstream life was just a crazy idea and not even close to reality. What a year it’s been, aye…mateys?