TAMPA — Gasparilla has landed a title sponsor for its pirate festival, the city's largest annual party.
Seminole Hard Rock Tampa said Tuesday it is returning as the event's top sponsor through 2016. The casino had been the main sponsor in the past but decided not to renew for 2013, leaving the event without a title sponsor for the first time in years.
Gasparilla officials said the sponsorship would help cover general costs of the parade and street festival, from the musical entertainment to fireworks, and keep the event on solid financial footing.
"The event doesn't happen without help from sponsors," said Darrell Stefany, president of EventFest, which organizes Gasparilla. "It's a big deal for us to have a title sponsor back this year."
Without going into specifics, Stefany said the agreement with Hard Rock would further efforts to expand the celebration and make it even more successful. A tradition since 1904, Gasparilla's parade along Bayshore Boulevard attracts hundreds of thousands of people every year. The 2014 Seminole Hard Rock Gasparilla Pirate Fest is set for Jan. 25.
Terms of the deal were not disclosed, but a look at federal tax returns for the nonprofit presenting group, Ye Mystic Krewe of Gasparilla, show revenue from all sponsorships totaled $130,095 in 2010.
The casino has been involved in the parade for several years and served as title sponsor in 2010, 2011 and 2012.
Before that, Southwest Airlines held the naming rights for 14 years.
Seminole Hard Rock officials said the title sponsorship reflects their "core values of uplifting the community throughout the year'' and allows them to bring their fun to the city.
"The Gasparilla Pirate Fest is a very important celebration for the Tampa Bay community and provides a big boost to the economy each year," John Fontana, president of Seminole Hard Rock Tampa, said in a news release. "We want to see it grow even more successful."
Money from sponsors goes toward general operations, from the never-enough portable toilets to fencing and bleachers. In return, sponsors get their names on marketing materials and a float in the parade, which is televised.
To celebrate the sponsorship, the Seminole Hard Rock is throwing a Gasparilla Treasures Mixer on Thursday. The event, which coincides with International Talk Like a Pirate Day, runs from 4 to 7 p.m. at the Hard Rock Café, 5223 Orient Road, Tampa.