Gasparilla Pirate Festival 2019

Gasparilla Pirate Festival 2019
January marks the start of pirate season in Tampa. Every year, beginning in January and ending in March, pirate captain Jose Gaspar and his Mystic Krewe of Gasparilla infest the city and demand its key from the mayor. The current year will see their 102nd invasion, which takes place on the last Saturday in January. Their landing is followed by The Parade of Pirates or Gasparilla Parade. Participants riding on floats throw beads and other trinkets to bystanders along the parade route.


Gasparilla got its start in 1904 with a pirate invasion by horseback followed by a Mardi Gras or Carnivale-style parade. The year 1911 saw the first invasion arriving by ship. The festival has been held more or less annually since then, with breaks during both world wars.

Early on, the event was scheduled to coincide with the Florida State Fair. The parade ended at Plant Field in downtown Tampa when the fair was held there, beginning in 1924. In 1976, the state fair moved to its current location east of Tampa and the Leroy Selmon Expressway was completed near the mouth of the Hillsborough River, preventing the pirate ship Jose Gasparilla from sailing up the river. It now docks on the south side of downtown Tampa. The parade starts near the south end of Bayshore Boulevard and continues north for about 4.5 miles.

The mythical Spanish pirate Jose Gaspar, a.k.a Gasparilla, was the inspiration for the festival. According to legend, Gaspar and his band of cutthroats hid on Gasparilla Island in Charlotte Harbor. From this base, he sailed over the Spanish Main—the Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean Sea—plundering ships for almost 40 years. In 1821, to avoid being captured by the U.S. Navy, he allegedly wrapped himself in his ship’s anchor chain and went overboard. However, there is no objective evidence that a pirate named Gasparilla ever existed.

Schedule of Events

Saturday, 19 January:

  • Event: Bicycle & Pedestrian Safety Rodeo
    Time: 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.
    Location: Bayshore Blvd & S Rome Ave

  • Event: Gasparilla Preschooler's Stroll
    Time: 1:30 to 2:45 p.m.
    Location: Bayshore Blvd & S Howard Ave

  • Event: Gasparilla Air Invasion and SOCOM Day Jump
    Time: 2:45 to 3:15 p.m.
    Location: Bayshore Blvd & DeSota, Tampa Bay

  • Event: Children’s Gasparilla Parade
    Time: 3:30 to 6 p.m.
    Location: Bayshore Blvd & W Bay to Bay Blvd

  • Event: Gasparilla Air Invasion and SOCOM Night Jump
    Time: 6:15 to 6:30 p.m.
    Location: Bayshore Blvd & Desota, Tampa Bay

  • Event: Gasparilla “Piratechnics”
    Time: 7 to 7:30 p.m.

Saturday, 26 January:

  • Event: Gasparilla Invasion
    Time: 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.
    Location: Hillsborough Bay/Seddon Channel, ship docks at Tampa Convention Center

  • Event: Parade of Pirates
    Time: 2 to 5:30 p.m.
    Location: Begins at Bay to Bay Boulevard and Bayshore Boulevard, continues along Bayshore Boulevard to Brorein Street, turns east on Brorein Street, then north on Ashley Drive. Ends at Cass Street & Ashley Drive.

Sunday, 27 January:

  • Event: 1st Annual Gasparilla JazzFEST
    Time: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
    Location: Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park

Saturday, 2 March

  • Event: Gasparilla Outbound Voyage
    Time: 2 to 10 p.m.
    (Further details not yet available.)

The events listed above are free and open to the public. However, you can buy reserved bleacher-seating tickets for some of them. There are many other Gasparilla-related events that take place between the end of January and the beginning of March that are not listed here. Check social media for further information.

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