By Sharon Kennedy Wynne
The Children's Gasparilla Extravaganza on Saturday is the G-rated version of the grownup parade coming next week, sort of like comparing Disney and Las Vegas. They are both over the top, but there's a lot less skin flashed at this one.
It can be a long day. The big event is 3 to 6:30 p.m., followed by fireworks, but there are plenty of activities along the water in South Tampa, beginning with a bicycle safety rodeo at 11 a.m., to keep little ones occupied.
Here are some tips to help you navigate the day:
• Bring food, water and cash. There will be food for sale, but pack a snack, especially for finicky little ones. No large coolers or glass containers are allowed, but small, soft-sided coolers or lunch bags can do the job. Have cash for vendors. There will be portable ATMs along the route, but most have steep charges.
• Some people get there very early to find a parking spot near the action. Some people are nuts. Those spots are gone fast, and who wants to keep a kid occupied for 10 hours? Use the shuttle that will operate two continuous routes from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. from the South Regional Garage at Florida Avenue and Channelside Drive and at the Fort Brooke Garage at Franklin and Whiting streets. Cost: $5 for adults; kids ride free. Or, you can hop on board the TECO Line Streetcar ($5 for an unlimited pass) in Ybor City and ride it into downtown Tampa. Park your car at the Centro Ybor Parking Garage or the Palm Avenue Garage. It's $1 for the first three hours, $4 for more than three hours. For Ybor City parking information, call (813) 242-5484.
• Think about buying a bleacher seat. If you want to assure that you'll have a spot to sit, reserved tickets are $18 plus a $3 handling charge per ticket for up to seven tickets. Go to gasparillaextravaganza.com and click on Tickets 'n' Treasures for more information.
• If you don't want to commit to a bleacher seat, claim your spot with chairs and blankets an hour or two before the parade begins. After you've set up camp, take turns shuttling kids to various events to occupy them until the parade starts.
• 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.
• Portable restrooms will be in place. Pack some hand sanitizer.
• 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 tri-corner hats, anchor tattoos and fake parrots on your shoulder.
• No pets allowed, so make provisions for the pooch if you plan to make a day of it.