This year's Gasparilla was a rousing success for Tampa. The city added a new dimension to the monthlong string of events, attracting record crowds under stunning weather to a shiny, rejuvenated downtown.
The Gasparilla parade has been a fixture for decades. But the experience has improved since the city attacked the drinking and crude behavior that had driven many families away. The Gasparilla art show and road races have established themselves as destination events that draw tens of thousands for entire weekends. And the city added a music festival this year, which drew a diversity of bands catering to all ages and tastes.
The many events comprising Gasparilla have added flavor to Tampa's signature festival. And they have made downtown and its new riverfront Curtis Hixon Park as much the focal point as Bayshore Boulevard. The city has done many things right, from keeping Curtis Hixon a passive park to attracting food stands from local restaurants. Mayor Bob Buckhorn will stretch things out another weekend by hosting today's first-ever St. Patrick's Day festival. There will be music and food at Curtis Hixon, and the city will dye the river green. The city needs to keep programming these events with the public in mind. Gasparilla has become a more inclusive event, and the city benefits from that broad appeal.