The G-rated version of Gasparilla, the alcohol-free Children's Gasparilla Parade followed by a huge fireworks show, invades Bayshore Boulevard in Tampa on Saturday.
As with any invasion, parents need to have their troops well supplied and marshaled smartly to enjoy the show, so we have some tips for you.
There are more than 100 colorful units passing by for three hours, including krewes, marching bands, dance groups, schools and community organizations. More than 3,500 children will participate.
It starts at 11 a.m. with children's activities and a bicycle rodeo, and doesn't end until the 7 p.m. pyrotechnics over the bay. Few kids can make it for such a long haul, so plan accordingly.
Here are some other ideas passed along by experienced Gasparilla-goers:
Establish a beachhead
>> Pack a cooler and picnic basket, bring a blanket and camp chairs and make a day of it. It's difficult to find a place to park and you are better off getting there early to secure a spot, then maybe wandering over to Hyde Park to kill time.
>> Consider bleacher seating tickets ($13.08) at www.GasparillaExtravaganza.com; click on the "Tickets 'n' Treasures" link. Children 2 and under are free if they sit on your lap. Call the ticket line at (813) 251-8844 between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. weekdays and 9 a.m. and 2 p.m. on Saturday.
>> If you get there early, it's less crowded on the water side of Bayshore Boulevard because later in the day you can no longer cross the street. But keep in mind that restroom access may be limited there. Find your loo before you drop anchor.
>> There are vendors selling food and drinks but lines can be long, so pack provisions. Bring cash.
>> Portable potties are situated along the parade route. Lines get long so go regularly to avoid an emergency. Bring hand sanitizers or wipes (extra TP in your purse couldn't hurt, either).
>> Think about stashing some backup beads because sometimes you can get stuck behind a boorish 40-something who thinks nothing of catching all the beads that can land in his huge wingspan. Throwing a few beads at your child's feet and saying, "Look Johnny, there's some!" can spare you a tearful scene.
>> The waits are sometimes long between the early events, so bring toys or games to keep the kids busy in between.
>> Stock your backpack with an extra bag or two for the kids to hold all their loot and beads.
>> If you have pirate gear from Halloween, wear it. Nothing is too much here, including plumed three-corner hats and fake parrots on your shoulder.
>> Two continuous shuttle routes will run from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., picking up little pirates 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. The shuttle drops off near the beginning of the parade route at Bay to Bay Boulevard and near the end of the parade route in the Crosstown area. Cost is $5 per adult; children accompanied by an adult ride for free.
>> Parking can be tough to find and violations are strictly enforced. One solution: Throw some bikes in the back of the car, park about a mile away and pedal there.