Children’s parade kicks off Tampa’s Gasparilla celebration this weekend

The alcohol-free party on Bayshore Boulevard has been a part of Gasparilla festivities since 1947.
Published January 17

TAMPA— Parents should still pack snacks, water, sunscreen and a bead bag for the Children’s Gasparilla Parade on Saturday. But this year one thing you don’t have to pack is a change of comfortable shoes.

In previous years, the event has involved a lot of walking to get to the parade route.

This year, event organizers have teamed up with Clearwater’s Jolley Trolley to provide six trolleys to pick up and drop off parade-goers, from the intersections of both Platt Street and Bayshore Boulevard, as well as Rome Avenue and Bayshore.

“We’re trying the trolley this year to help cut down on walking for the little ones,” said Maiken Stefany, the vice president and event coordinator for EventFest, the company that puts on the Children’s Gasparilla extravaganza.

“I think people will certainly utilize it whether it’s to get to the parade closer, or post parade,” Stefany said. “We’ve never done this concept and we’re certainly looking forward to it. If it goes really well we can expand it in future years.”

Stefany encouraged parade-goers to arrive early, to find parking and a good spot before the parade kicks off at 3:30 p.m., and to stay for the fireworks, especially since the forecast calls for good weather this weekend. Past children’s parades have drawn crowds approaching 100,000.

The Children’s Gasparilla Parade is an alcohol-free event held the weekend before the annual Gasparilla Pirate Invasion.

Although the parade begins at 3:30 p.m., the festivities start at 11 a.m. with a bicycle and pedestrian safety rodeo presented by the Tampa Police Department, non-profit Onbikes and the Florida Department of Transportation.

Following the bike rodeo, Zoo Tampa at Lowry Park presents a preschooler’s stroll featuring kids in their best pirate attire at 1:30 p.m.

Parachutists from the U.S. Special Operations team — The Para-Commandos — take flight for two jumps and air invasions at 2:45 and 6:15 p.m. After the second air invasion and SOCom night jump, the pirates of the Ye Mystic Krewe, Gasparilla’s oldest and inaugural krewe, will engage in a “piratechnic” battle against the City of Tampa, and then the day concludes with fireworks at 7 p.m.

This year’s parade features a total of 132 units, including floats, dance groups and marching bands from schools like Plant High School, Academy of the Holy Names and St. John’s Episcopal Parish Day School.

Ye Mystic Krewe has the largest presence in the parade with a total of 11 floats. The group takes pride in custom-making a new float every two years and refurbishing one float every year.

“We’re really excited to be part of it again this year, but I’m more excited about the presence of the participants,” said new Captain Richard Chapman.

“It’s an exciting time for the kids that have never gone before,” Chapman said. “I grew up here and watched as a kid, so now it’s just a delight to be a part of that and exciting to see all the elements come together. I don’t think there’s any better place to be.”

Contact Monique Welch at [email protected] or Follow Mo_UNIQUE_.