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Thousands of little pirates cheer at Children's Gasparilla Parade in Tampa

TAMPA — Pirates will take over the city next weekend, but on Saturday, children commanded Bayshore Boulevard.

As floats rolled down the street in the Children's Gasparilla Parade, thousands of little arms reached toward the sky and frantically waved, as if their owners had a burning question for their teacher.

"Beads! Beads! Beads!"

In this tamer version of the annual Gasparilla parade, fair-style lemonade replaced beer, and those charged with keeping order had an easy time of it.

Police and firefighters reported no incidents — a stark contrast to the Gasparilla parade, which often results in dozens of alcohol-related charges. Last year, more than 80 people were treated by paramedics.

The contrast between the two parades is by now so well known that some adults went to Saturday's parade without children.

Though Kevin Kernan, 59, has never been to the Gasparilla parade, he's watched local news reports. He's seen pictures.

"There's people laying on the street, drunk," he said. "I'm not here for that."

Kernan and his girlfriend, Edna Garcia, 49, decided last-minute to go to the children's parade because the weather was nice.

Although a shower briefly threatened the parade, the drizzling quickly subsided, and hundreds of flip-flop-wearing parade­goers were rewarded with warm temperatures.

Police didn't have a crowd estimate on Saturday, but there appeared to be thousands of people along Bayshore.

Toward the back of the crowd, 6-year-old Alyssa Daley waved her arms in the air, hoping for beads. She didn't have much luck, but an older child handed her a strand that she caught.

"Look!" Alyssa said, jumping up and down as she showed her father, Mike Daley, 31. He handed her a plastic doubloon that he caught, and she squealed.

Daley goes to the Gasparilla parade each year, but said he would never take Alyssa.

"It gets out of hand," he said.

The daylong event wrapped up with fireworks at 7 p.m.

This coming Saturday, the pirates will invade at 11:30 a.m., and the Gasparilla parade will start at 2 p.m. The 3.8-mile route starts at Bayshore and Bay to Bay boulevards, continues down Bayshore and ends at Ashley Drive and Cass Street downtown.

Jessica Vander Velde can be reached at jvandervelde@sptimes.com or (813) 661-2443.

Thousands of little pirates cheer at Children's Gasparilla Parade in Tampa 01/23/10 [Last modified: Wednesday, January 27, 2010 1:19pm]
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