Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Pint-sized pirates invade Children's Gasparilla Parade


The Stevensons woke up early Saturday morning, ignoring the dire forecasts of gusty cold and putting the final touches on their makeshift ship.

Painted cardboard around the sides of the family's little wagon became the wooden hull. Elmer's Glue held shiny plastic coins in a paper treasure chest.

And in a comfortable nook at the stern, 5-year-old Jada took her seat.

Finally. Parade day.

"Anytime the news came on showing scenes from last year, she started hopping all around the house," said Jada's mother, Sonya Stevenson, 46, of Brandon. "She was really looking forward to it."

She wasn't the only one.

Hundreds of little pirates invaded Bayshore Boulevard on Saturday for the annual Children's Gasparilla Parade.

They battled each other with plastic swords, stuffed their cheeks with cotton candy and corn dogs, caught colorful beads and gave their best Jose Gaspar impressions.

"Aaaarrrggggg," growled brothers Ian and Eduardo Alejo of Plant City.

This was the fourth year Ian, 9, and Eduardo, 7, attended the kid-friendly fest. Before the parade even started, they'd already snagged some loot — bags full of goodies from the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus and a bevy of beads.

For the Alejos and most of the other attendees, it was a welcome alternative to next weekend's massive Gasparilla Pirate Fest, which infamously draws a hard-partying adult crowd.

"Some of my friends won't bring their kids to the other one," said Michelle Vrooman, a 41-year-old flight attendant who dressed up in a red pirate shirt and prepared to toss beads with the Krewe of Alegria. "It's good to have a separate one."

Along the parade route, 7-year-old Takiya Swilley and 8-year-old Tamiyah Crawford reached over the metal barrier as a strand of gold plastic flew through the air. Then they giggled as a little boy in a parrot costume walked by.

"I like how they dress up the little kids," Takiya said of the preschooler's stroll before the main event.

Added Tamiyah: "It's very cute when they decorate the wagons."

But the real fun, the girls said, comes later.

The main parade began with motorcycle police officers flashing their lights as they made single line and figure-eight formations on the road.

Girl Scout and Boy Scout troops followed behind them, trying desperately to hurl the bead strands over barriers 15 feet away. The beads that fell in the street were scooped up and distributed by jovial police officers smiling and laughing with the crowd.

Some of the smaller children received beads from members of Ye Mystic Krewe of Gasparilla such as Brian Grieves, 49, who walked up and down the parade route outside the barriers.

"You know it's sometimes hard for the small kids to get beads," he explained.

The fabled pirate ship was also on the water blasting its canons just as the Bloomingdale High School marching band passed by N Albany Avenue.

Temperatures dropped into the low 50s as the procession of pirate ship floats made its way down Bayshore.

Tiny gloved hands still shot up every time beads were hurled from a moving vehicle.

As the sun set, some parents decided to call it a day, and others waited for the next part of the show — fireworks.

"When they have the fireworks, everyone goes crazy," Tamiyah said.

Priya Gopalan, 42, a University of Florida researcher, brought her two kids all the way from Gainesville.

Six-year-old Sophia seemed a little surprised that she had as much fun as she did.

"I don't like the Disney ride Pirates of the Caribbean. It's too scary," she explained.

"It's not too scary for me!" boasted her 3-year-old brother, Sid.

Down the road, 9-year-old Luke Nye showed off a couple of brag-worthy scars adorning his face — the handiwork of his mom, Darlene, 40, and a touch of black paint.

"I like pirates. I like when they fight and stuff," Luke said. With his bravado, plus two gleaming plastic swords, he was ready.

Times staff writer Robbyn Mitchell contributed to this report.

Pint-sized pirates invade Children's Gasparilla Parade 01/22/11 [Last modified: Saturday, January 22, 2011 11:13pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Editorial: DOT listens, adjusts on I-275 plans in Tampa


    Florida continues to improve its plan for modernizing the interstate system in Tampa Bay. The Florida Department of Transportation has unveiled four new options for rebuilding I-275 near downtown Tampa, and some of them would ditch previous plans for toll lanes downtown while keeping express lanes for faster, …

    State officials are re-evaluating parts of I-4 and I-275 in Tampa as part of a supplemental environmental impact study, or SEIS. 
  2. College basketball scandal dips into Tampa Bay


    Tuesday's national college basketball scandal has recruiting ties to Tampa Bay.

    In this March 15, 2012, file photo, San Diego State assistant coach Tony Bland, left, talks during NCAA college basketball practice in Columbus, Ohio. Bland was identified in court papers, and is among 10 people facing federal charges in Manhattan federal court, Tuesday in a wide probe of fraud and corruption in the NCAA, authorities said. [AP Photo/Tony Dejak, File]
  3. Datz to open in St. Petersburg, join the James Museum of Western and Wildlife Art

    Food & Dining

    Now Datz news.

    Get it? Tuesday, Datz, the longtime line-out-the-door, oft-Instagrammed and -Yelped Tampa stalwart known for shock-and-awe sandwiches and oh-so-much bacon, announced it is coming to St. Petersburg.

    Lunch guest eat at Datz Deli at 2616 South MacDill Ave. in Tampa. Times files.
  4. Republican leader McConnell pulls the plug on latest Obamacare repeal effort

    WASHINGTON --- Sen. Mitch McConnell on Tuesday officially pulled the plug on the latest plan to repeal the health care law, telling senators they will not vote on the measure and effectively admitting defeat in the last-gasp drive to fulfill a core promise of President Donald Trump and Republican lawmakers.

    Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Ky. listens during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Feb. 7, 2017, after the Senate confirmed Betsy DeVos as education secretary. DeVos was approved by the narrowest of margins, with Vice President Mike Pence breaking a 50-50 tie in a historic vote. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite) DCSA119
  5. Lightning's Brayden Point could be perfect fit alongside Steven Stamkos, Nikita Kucherov

    Lightning Strikes

    SUNRISE — Brayden Point ended last season as the Lightning's No. 1 center, thrust into the role as a rookie due to injuries.

    Lightning center Brayden Point (21) advances the puck through the neutral zone during Friday's preseason game against the Nashville Predators. [DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD  |  Times]