TAMPA — Pirates aren't the only seafarers about to descend on Tampa Bay.
Coinciding with the Children's Gasparilla Parade, sailors from around the country will make landfall Friday as part of Navy Week, an annual event aimed at showcasing the U.S. Navy in 21 different cities. This will be Tampa's fourth year participating.
For seven days, sailors will grace schools, news programs, civic associations and volunteer projects — wrapping up after marching in the Gasparilla Parade of Pirates on Jan. 29.
The point is to demonstrate that the Navy does more than "go out on a boat and just float around," said Lt. Glenn Sircy, in charge of the events in Tampa.
"It's about showcasing the capabilities of the Navy and what (citizens') tax dollars go to."
Scheduling the visit during Gasparilla was no coincidence.
Last year, the Tampa visit in March accompanied the MacDill Airfest. But in 2007 and 2008, it was during Gasparilla, too.
"We like to anchor onto an already established event," Sircy said.
It helps ensure a crowd. Plus, it's fun.
When the event heads next to Texas, for instance, sailors will dock during Rodeo Austin. In Denver, they'll visit the city's Cinco de Mayo festival. In Los Angeles, the summer X Games.
On Saturday, sailors from the Navy's oldest ship, the USS Constitution, which remains docked in Boston Harbor, will serve as the color guard for the Children's Parade, and the U.S. Navy Dixie Land Band will jam atop a float.
The next day, sailors will visit a Girl Scouts of West Central Florida career expo to talk about opportunities for women in the military. That night, they'll head to the St. Pete Times Forum for Navy Night with the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Events in the following days include service projects at the Ronald McDonald houses in Tampa and St. Petersburg, divers' presentations at the Florida Aquarium, a visit to St. Joseph's Children's Hospital, tutoring sessions at local Boys & Girls clubs and home building with Habitat for Humanity.
"America's Navy is a global force for good, but when we do these Navy events, we like to say we are also a local force for good," Sircy said.
During the Jan. 29 Gasparilla parade, 70 to 80 members of the Naval Academy's drum and bugle corps will march among the bead-tossing revelers.
No, Sircy said, they won't be dressed in swashbuckler gear.
"We'll definitely be in our standard, everyday uniforms."
Kim Wilmath can be reached at (813) 661-2442 or [email protected]