Full of bluster and luster in its 110th year, Ye Mystic Krewe of Gasparilla pulled out its once-a-year fancy duds — the velvet and brocade jackets, tall, shiny boots, feathered tricorns and heirloom button — to swagger into Ye Captain's Ball. More than 1,500 partiers packed two giant tents and two dance floors on Jan. 23 at the Tampa Yacht Club. Mainstream played indoors while Atlanta band A-Town A-List rocked outside. Speculators buzzed: Will the next queen be Sara Katherine Ennis, Cecelia Hardwick, Taylor Lykes, Caroline Ryals or Adair Tigert?
Early invasion-watchers bundled up Saturday, then called for SPF30 when the sun came out to play. And play they did: rum runners, wenches, firefighters, conquistadors, knights, privateers, gamblers, gypsies, O'Malleys, Buffalo Soldiers, Rough Riders, Libertarians, Celts, Marauders, Gauchos, and here's a new one, Wingmen, as in MacDill airmen, beaded their way down Bayshore Boulevard. Riding a float or walking alongside is the best vantage point.
Some say a pelican's perch on a boat can't be beat. Sipping chardonnay in a catered corporate tent or a Bayshore mansion surely staves off the madding crowd.
My Gasparilla party stroll began with a request to leave the Merrymaker's Club tent, so the men's frat club could "stay under the radar and out of the press," said my escort. It ended, ironically, with a friendly security guard at the home of Jill and Scott Kelley, who had emailed reporters earlier with a gracious offer of a pit stop.