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Children's Gasparilla Extravaganza full of family fun

At Saturday's free Children's Gasparilla Extravaganza, the tame celebration for kids and families, you can expect the same pirate fun without the naughtiness and alcohol. There will be plenty of activity in downtown Tampa, beginning with a bicycle safety rodeo (11 a.m. to 2 p.m.); an air invasion featuring vintage aircraft and a U.S. Special Operations Command parachute team (noon and 3 p.m.); the Preschoolers' Stroll (2 p.m.); the Children's Parade (on Bayshore Boulevard from Bay to Bay Boulevard to Watrous Avenue — about 1.4 miles) from 3:30 to 6 p.m.; and the air invasion night flight (6:30 p.m.). The Piratechnic Extravaganza fireworks show begins at 7 p.m. and re-creates the imaginary battle between the city of Tampa and the pirates of Ye Mystic Krewe of Gasparilla. Here are some tips to help you navigate the day:

Don't even try to find a parking spot near the action. Use the shuttle that will operate two continuous routes from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. It stops at the South Regional Garage, at the corner of Florida Avenue and Channelside Drive, and the Fort Brooke Garage, at the corner of Franklin and Whiting streets. Stops will be near the start and end of the parade route. The cost is $5 for adults; free for children accompanied by an adult.

Think about buying a bleacher seat. If you want to assure that you'll have a spot to sit, reserved tickets are $14.95. You can select from one of two areas to view the parade. Go to gasparillaextravaganza.com and click on Tickets 'n' Treasures.

Bring food, water and money. Food will be sold during the festivities but it's always a good idea to pack a snack to keep little ones satisfied. But if the cotton candy vendor comes along, you will need a few dollars. No large coolers or glass containers allowed. However, small soft-sided coolers and lunch bags are permitted for child care and medical needs. There will be ATMs along the route but beware the usage fees.

There will be portable bathrooms all along the parade route and throughout the event site. Just make sure to take the kids before they need to go because lines tend to get long. Take sanitary wipes and hand sanitizer.

Claim your spot early for the parade. It's sort of like one of those Disney parades where folks start sitting on the sidewalk sometimes hours before the parade begins. Find a nice spot, set up camp with chairs and blankets and take turns shuttling kids to various events.

Every member of the family can attend this event, but four-legged members must stay home. Because crowds can be ginormous, leave Scruffy at the house.

Sherry Robinson, Times staff writer

Children's Gasparilla Extravaganza full of family fun 01/20/10 [Last modified: Saturday, January 23, 2010 4:31pm]

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