TAMPA — The pirate Jose Gaspar probably never existed, his invasion of Tampa that will be re-enacted Saturday definitely never happened, but the party is real. We promise.
And with the weather forecast for Gasparilla 2013, it should be a good one.
With a sun-splashed Saturday expected, Gasparilla organizers repeated this week messages familiar to veterans of the parade: Get there early. Party safely. And, of course, have a good time.
"The weather's going to be great, so come on out early and enjoy the whole day," said Darrell Stefany, president of EventFest, which organizes Gasparilla.
The Gasparilla invasion starts at 11:30 a.m., with the fully rigged pirate ship Jose Gasparilla and scores of boats forming a flotilla sailing up Hillsborough Bay, with the Tampa Convention Center, Mayor Bob Buckhorn and the key to the city in the pirates' sights.
The Parade of Pirates, which again is expected to draw about 300,000 to Bayshore Boulevard and downtown, runs from 2 until 5:30 p.m. More than 100 entrants in the parade are expected to ride more than 140 floats and other vehicles down Bayshore under sunny skies.
"It looks fantastic," Bay News 9 meteorologist Brian McClure said of Saturday's forecast. "Light northerly breeze, lots of sunshine, temperatures in the low 70s. Can't beat it."
Revelers will be part of the first Gasparilla crowd subject to the scrutiny of a $2 million police camera system installed last year for the Republican National Convention. Police will use cameras downtown and along Bayshore to look out for fights, disturbances and other crimes.
For the first time since 1996, Gasparilla doesn't have a title sponsor for the parade, the city's largest and most expensive annual event.
Aside from fewer banners, though, event leaders have promised people won't notice much of a change.
Those not partied out by the end of the parade can stay downtown for music at Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park. Skycoasters, a nine-piece cover band from Rochester, N.Y., will take the stage at 5 p.m., followed by Tampa country/rock musician Daniel B. Marshall at 7:30 p.m. and a disc jockey from WFLZ 93.3-FM from 9 to 10 p.m.