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Families flock to Children's Gasparilla Parade in Tampa

TAMPA

Sun glinted on a vintage aluminum plane as it flipped and twirled overhead.

"Whoa — get a look at that," John Aukerman of Tampa said to his 3-year-old nephew Blake, straddling his shoulders.

The Children's Gasparilla Parade, loaded with pirates, started Saturday afternoon following an air invasion consisting of a single plane doing aerial acrobatics.

For others, like Nathan Smith, 23, of Clearwater, it started much earlier in the morning when he staked out a spot on Bayshore Boulevard near the parade's starting point. He spread out a blanket, set out a stocked cooler and waited for his family to join him.

The kids' version of Gasparilla started in 1947 as a way for families to enjoy the festivities — minus the adult parade's debauchery and alcohol. As Saturday's parade was about to start, the temperature was a balmy 68. The bay along the route had a light chop. Everyone waited.

"Come on, pirates," chanted 10-year-old Tommy Jenkins.

Four horses pranced in the parade's staging zone hitched to a red stagecoach. A boxer dog named Jack stood on top.

Tampa police started the parade with their tanklike tactical response vehicle. Harmony Sebjwick, a Tampa 10-year-old, begged to get in. Behind the tank, more than 100 krewes, marching bands, dance squads, and school and community groups followed along Bayshore.

Tampa police Officer Tony Bell stood guard in the parade's second block. A man on a motorized scooter with a cooler attached asked him if "someone" could be charged with a driving under the influence on a vehicle like his.

"You can be charged with a DUI riding your bike," Bell answered. His biggest issue of the day, he said, was people reserving spaces, which isn't allowed. Some consumption of alcohol. Some profanity. "It's the kids' day, that's the bottom line," he said.

The parade wound toward Howard Avenue.

Brothers Dayshun and Jazper Haynie, 6 and 4, dueled with plastic swords in the street.

"Where is the cotton candy?" pleaded 4-year-old Gerald Derr.

"Have you put on weight, buddy?" Garret Franklin asked his 7-year-old son Carter, who was sitting on his shoulders.

At S Gunby Avenue, a sea serpent passed and the Krewe of St. Brigit stopped to wait.

Beads rained down.

Kaid Walding, 9, of Plant City scored a pink strand the size of marbles. His mother eyed them.

"I need a rocket ship," said Rachel Wanek, who will turn 2 next month and was too far back to see. (Her parents tell her this when she asks to touch the moon.)

The route ended at S Orleans Avenue, where 2-year-old Jakob Tacombi whimpered, reaching for his mother. "Enough parade," Tammi Tacombi said to him, picking him up.

Times staff writer Elisabeth Parker can be reached at (813) 226-3431 or eparker@sptimes.com.

Families flock to Children's Gasparilla Parade in Tampa 01/24/09 [Last modified: Sunday, January 25, 2009 2:09am]
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