Whether or not you believe the stories about the infamous Jose’ Gaspar, the party in Tampa, Florida is real. Every year, the city of Tampa celebrates Gasparilla, a week-long homage to their pirate heritage. The celebration includes all kinds of pirate-themed events including parades, children’s festivals (kid friendly), live music, beads and libations, lots of libations.
Legend has it that Jose’ Gaspar, or Grasparilla as he liked to call himself, and his crew of pirates terrorized Florida’s west coast waters during the turn of the 19th century. After years of piracy, Gasparilla and his crew were ready to call it quits, splitting their riches before parting ways. But, they decided on one last hoorah before disbanding. Unfortunately, they chose the wrong ship to seize; a US Navy warship disguised as a merchant ship would be the last battle for Jose’ Gaspar and his band of thieves. As the legend goes, when Gasparilla realized this was a losing battle, he vowed to not be taken alive only to be hung by his captor. So, he wrapped himself in the ship’s anchor chain and while holding the anchor jumped overboard proclaimingthat he would die by his own hands, not the enemy’s.
As far back as 1904, the city of Tampa has been celebrating Gasparilla. The event has evolved into the Gasparilla Pirate Festival that we know today and includes a Pirate Invasion where a fully rigged pirate ship enters Tampa Bay to seize the city. Attempting to defend the city from the invasion, private boats follow the pirate ship through the bay. Upon docking at the Tampa Convention Center, the mayor of the city has no choice but to relinquish the key to the city to Ye Mystic Krewe of Gasparilla.
And that’s when the party begins
For it is said that you should never stand alone on the deck of ship in Tampa Bay as the ghost of Jose’ Gaspar will rise from the depths, still wrapped in chains, to grab you and drag you down.
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