Amy Scherzer’s Diary: Weekly Wrap-up of the Tampa Social Scene

Published February 2
Updated February 2

Gasparilla 2018 navigation log

Jan. 19: Docked at the Henry B. Plant Museum, exactly where Ye Mystic Krewe first rode into town May 4, 1904, birthing Tampa’s signature pirate fest. For decades, the museum has shared its archival repository of all things Gasparilla, the photo of the founders on horseback, the 1914 royal crown and sceptre and now, for the first time — three gowns designed for the 1924, 1926 and 1957 queens by renowned fashion designer Anne Lowe. Gasparilla: A Tampa Tradition is sponsored by Steve and the 79th Gasparilla Queen LXXIX Janice Ferman Straske, parents of current queen Elly Straske. Mother and daughter’s emerald green coronation gowns are both on display.

A cocktail buffet and lusty voices of Ye Mystic Cutthroat Chorus filled the University of Tampa veranda before the crowd moved into the Music Room to view rare footage of the parade with color commentary by historian Nancy Turner and museum curators Susan Carter and Heather Trubee Brown.

Jan. 25: Off to Ye Captain’s Ball where Capt. Christopher Lykes, scion of the New Orleans branch of Tampa’s pioneer family, greets 1,500 partiers packed into the Tampa Yacht Club, The men-only club members load their krewe "couture" with patches, pins, pockets and parrots for this fancy bash, outdressing (plenty outspending, too) their wives or dates. They drink and dance to Party on the Moon in an enormous tent till 2 a.m. Pre-ball dining pirates spotted: Gasparilla King 2012 and possible mayoral candidate David Straz, multiple generations of 90-year-old King (1977) Richard Clarke’s family and Jo-Ann and Billy Hendry, all enjoying Ward Cook’s band.

Jan. 27: Invasion day and the weather suits every genre of costume: Rumrunners, Rogues, Rough Riders, Privateers, Pandoras, Conchs, Celts, Bridgets, O’Malleys, Bucs, Bolts, Rays, Bulls, Knights, Neptunes, sultans, gauchos, gladiators, gamblers, gondoliers - 61 krewe floats paraded down Bayshore Boulevard, deejays blasting, cannons deafening. The MacDill Air Force-based Special Forces float drew "USA, USA" chants and throngs saluted veterans in the Krewe of Valor. Most joyful: Hare Krishna devotees playing tambourines and passing out prasadam and pamphlets.

I start my morning at Realtor Scott Wolfe’s fun brunch on Davis Islands as Mayor Bob Buckhorn swapped the key to the city for the Stanley Cup. Then over the bridge, past total chaos of hundreds of boats bobbing in the Bayshore marina. I peek into dozens of coveted bayside tents reserved by corporate honchos — law firms, liquor distributors, construction companies. J.C. Newman Cigar Co. hosted 18 importers from Belgium, Germany, Spain and Israel, all sales contest winners, grand prize being a trip to witness Gasparilla. Also happily noted more public bleachers south of tent city.

Perched awhile at the pirates’ bead reloading station at Rome Avenue (I bet each bag weighs at least 35 pounds), then popped over to check out the landside scene: the Barkett’s Amalie Oil cajun extravaganza, Jeff Tedder’s blowout "Tedsparilla" and the Drewitt-Barlow family’s first adult parade ("Anti-climatic after all we’d heard," said Barrie, "Saw more parents fighting for beads for their kids at the children’s parade last week.")

Really, the only horseplay I saw came from Budweiser’s Clydesdales. In a crowd of fill-in-the-blank hundreds of thousands, a handful of arrests and misdemeanor charges, plus 15 boating under the influence arrests, is utterly amazing.