Friday, December 15, 2017
Events

Gasparilla pirate parade lives up to reputation

TAMPA

Maybe it was the sun. Maybe it was the swashbucklers. Definitely it was the spirits.

Always a display of excess and always chancy as family entertainment, the Gasparilla Pirate Fest on Saturday lived up to its bacchanalian reputation.

Thirty-one people ages 18-20, plus a juvenile, were arrested on underage drinking charges.

Police wrote 131 alcohol citations. And an additional 37 adults were arrested, eight of them on felony charges.

Tampa rescue crews reported that a bus and a motorcycle crashed in South Tampa as traffic flowed out after the parade, but officials had not confirmed if it was directly related to Gasparilla.

With cloudless skies and highs in the mid-70s, more than a quarter million people started pouring into South Tampa. One was Dave Abbate and his rolling party.

As Abbate, 31, of Tampa pushed his invention along Bayshore Boulevard, people instantly broke out in dance.

His invention: a red cooler on wheels, with speakers inside that blared rap music played through his Bluetooth. "It's a real crowd-pleaser," he said.

As the morning's fog burned off, the Jose Gasparilla pirate ship emerged from the haze and, flanked by hundreds of boats in a flotilla, headed for a showdown.

Mayor Bob Buckhorn, bragging on Twitter that "we're going to defend this city from Palma Ceia to Tampa Palms" — but of course in on the whole act — surrendered keys to the city outside the Tampa Convention Center.

And then the swarthy swashbucklers boarded a tour bus to head for their parade.

• • •

Seen and heard on the route:

• Addison Roy, 9, of Valrico turned into a zombie pirate, in a makeover that took two hours.

• The Hyde Park Men's Club served its signature jambalaya: 80 pounds of chicken, 20 pounds of sausage, 40 onions, 40 cups of rice, 10 cups of chopped garlic and 2 1/2 gallons of broth.

• The most frequent question for Ryan Waldron, 23, a tour guide with Tampa Downtown Partnership: Where's the bathroom?

• Answer: most everywhere, as there were 1,200 Port-o-lets.

• • •

People attending Gasparilla were seen on candid camera — the surveillance system the city obtained for the Republican National Convention. In addition to 97 cameras at 58 fixed locations downtown, five mobile cameras were deployed.

Police allowed the media a brief peek. Two women watched feeds on video monitors in a fifth-floor room at headquarters.

Officials vowed they wouldn't use the $2 million system to find minor violations like open alcohol containers. Rather, they were looking for "the effects of alcohol," Capt. Mike Baumaister said.

• • •

A number of apparently well-lubricated spectators danced with devotees of Hare Krishna.

"What a heart-felt crowd," said Gora Poddar, a member of the movement from Gainesville. "They are such happy people, they want to dance."

Nonetheless, the street was littered with pamphlets spectators had taken and then discarded.

• • •

The then-leader of the U.S. Central Command at MacDill Air Force Base, Gen. David Petraeus, celebrated his first Gasparilla at the Kelley mansion on Bayshore Boulevard. At that 2010 party, he and his wife posed for pictures.

On Saturday, there was no party. Instead, two uniformed security guards patrolled the lawn. One held a smartphone and appeared to be taking video.

Last year, Jill Kelley unwittingly set off an investigation that led Petraeus, by then the CIA director, to quit.

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