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Tampa's pirates and beads serve up a different kind of Christmas parade

TAMPA

Pirates have taken over Christmas.

Donning red and white Santa hats, they marched through downtown streets Saturday alongside the more traditional holiday characters as Christmas carols blasted from a pirate ship float.

In another nod to the annual Gasparilla parade, beads flew from the floats at the city's annual Santa Fest and parade. In the spirit of the season, the booty was red and green.

Spectators, young and old, raised their hands in anticipation.

This is Christmas, Tampa-style.

Ian Vokoun, 9, of Tampa had a pile of beads around his neck just minutes after the parade began. And he was looking forward to more, he said.

Ducking out of the way as an assault of necklaces headed her way, Lisa Todd of Tampa spent almost as much time dodging beads as she did watching the parade. She was on the lookout for something a little more sweet for her toddler, Julia.

"Her favorite part is the lollipops," Todd said.

With a piece of candy in her mouth and numerous beads around her neck, Alison Self, 9, of Ruskin declared Saturday's parade a success.

"It's really cool seeing all the people having fun and happy," she said.

It wasn't just the children who enjoyed themselves. Ron and Judy Anderson, 70 and 62, of Tampa appreciated the mild temperature.

Originally from Chicago, the couple used to have to bundle up for Christmas parades. This year, they couldn't help but mention the lack of snow and frost to family members up north.

"I emailed my family this morning and told them this would be my first time going to a Christmas parade in a short-sleeved shirt," Judy Anderson said.

Once Santa made his debut in a red convertible — Florida's version of a sleigh — it was on to Santa Fest at Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park, where children tossed aside beads for bounce houses and ice skating.

Live music, including a performance by the Tampa Oratorio Singers, filled the air. Games and crafts were set up for children, and the line for a photo with Santa Claus wound around the park.

At the craft stations, Jasmine Holmes, 3, made a headband with reindeer antlers and a snowflake ornament.

"She'll remember this," said Holmes' grandmother Gloria Dixon, 54. "There are lots of hands-on things for her to do and this gives people a place to go as a family."

As soon as Jasmine got her antlers on, the two were off to visit Santa Claus.

Shelley Rossetter can be reached at srossetter@tampabay.com or (813) 661-2442.

Tampa's pirates and beads serve up a different kind of Christmas parade 12/03/11 [Last modified: Wednesday, December 7, 2011 6:38pm]

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