For years, many people who attended the Gasparilla Parade of Pirates could only look across in envy at the VIP tents full of well-heeled, connected partiers set up along the waterfront side of Bayshore Boulevard. It was a tough ticket.
This year, though, if people are willing to spend $40, they can get that same view (albeit without an open bar) with something called First Mate reserved chair seating, located on the water side of Bayshore Boulevard, between Ardson Place and Carolina Avenue (a few blocks south of Howard Avenue). The new seating was announced Wednesday along with news that the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino will again be the title sponsor for a third year. The tickets, which include tax, will also be available for the Gasparilla Children's Parade and Piratechnic Extravaganza on Jan. 21 for a slightly lower cost.
The annual Gasparilla Pirate Fest, which includes a brunch, the invasion, a 4.5-mile parade and entertainment afterward, is scheduled Jan. 28.
The seating, which was described as extremely limited, is single row, meaning no craning around that guy who chose to wear his Jack Sparrow pirate hat.
It's part of a larger plan involving reserved seating this year. Reserved seating for the brunch and parade is limited, according to a news release, and has been relocated in many areas for the 2012 event. All reserved tickets will be assigned in the order they are received, so organizers are warning guests to order early to seating preferences. To purchase tickets, go to gasparillapiratefest.com.
This year's main stage will once again be set up in Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park, which is at the end of the parade route. An additional Latin-themed entertainment stage will be downtown in MacDill Park, on the west side of Ashley Drive along the river between Whiting and Jackson streets. Entertainment schedules will be released soon detailing times and acts for each location.