The krewes of GASPARILLA

Published Feb. 5, 1999|Updated Sept. 28, 2005

Final edited version not provided for electronic library. Please see microfilm.

(ran TP edition)

Program! Get'cher program, right here! Can't tell a pirate from a gaucho from a conquistador from a Rough Rider without it!

If you think Gasparilla is just about pirates, you're missing out on one chaotic history lesson. Of the 22 krewes marching in this year's parade, only four affect the pirate look: Ye Mystic Krewe of Gasparilla, Grand Krewe de Libertalia, Anna Maria Island Privateers and Bonney-Read Krewe.

Beyond that, you've got everything from Spanish nobility circa 1492 (Columbus Celebration of Tampa) to modern day small plane pilots (Ye Mystic AirKrewe), to representatives of the 19th century U.S. cavalry and British navy, Italian gypsies, Spanish senoritas and Old West card sharks thrown in the mix.

There are four krewes new to the parade this year. Give a hearty Ahoy, matey! to the Krewe of the Caribbean Cowboys, the Krewe of Pair O'Dice, the Royal Order of the Ponce de Leon Conquistadors and the Krewe of Hillsborough.

Krewe of Agustina De Aragon

How to spot it: Costumes are modeled after early-1800s peasant garb, with gauzy blouses and overbodices, plus long homespun skirts. Rose garlands are headpieces.

First sighted: 1997

Known population: 187 people. Women are the primary members; those in the men's auxiliary are called "thorns."

Primary habitat: Hillsborough

Evolution: The krewe was started by Peggie Sherry and friends, who had been celebrating Gasparilla together for 18 years. In October 1997, they decided to make it official with the formation of a krewe. "I had no idea that my friends had so many friends," Sherry says. The krewe's lore took shape around the story of Agustina, a young woman who helped defend the Spanish town of Saragossa from the invading Napoleonic army.

Method of locomotion: A float designed to look like a Spanish church equipped with a 24-pounder cannon. The church is surrounded by the rubble of battle.

Pictured: Peggie Sherry

Krewe of Zingaro

How to spot it: Look for the gypsies wearing colorful vests, blousons and head scarves, like Mike Vazmina, below.

First sighted: 1997

Known population: 65 members, men and women

Primary habitat: Hillsborough and Pinellas

Evolution: Started by refugees from other krewes who wanted their own club, one that couples could join. The group chose the Zingaro theme _ the word is Italian for gypsy _ and created a myth that links their krewe with the legend of pirate Jose Gaspar. "Our lead gypsy way back when, Tres Goldstein-Gomez, was friends with Jose Gaspar," says president Frank Lidiak. "He was there when Jose Gaspar died. We know where Gaspar's gold is buried, and every year we go and get some and distribute it during Gasparilla." The group's aesthetic arises from "dashing, romantic images of gypsy freedom and fun," Lidiak says.

Method of locomotion: Colorful gypsy caravans, including the signature float, Big Purple. "You'll see us and hear us coming," Lidiak says. "We'll play foot-tapping music, and we'll be dancing."

Krewe of Cavaliers

How to spot it: Think D'Artagnan. Puffy shirts, purple sashes and chapeaux with big feathers give a dashing Three Musketeers look to this krewe.

First sighted: 1987, but only began to parade in 1997

Known population: 35 men and women, with many more hangers-on

Primary habitat: Hillsborough, but also St. Petersburg, Sarasota and New York

Evolution: In 1984, a group of 13 friends led by Don Severence put on a masquerade ball at the Ritz Theater in Ybor City during the Sant' Yago night parade. It was so successful they kept having the party and in 1987 declared themselves a krewe.

Method of locomotion: Two floats, one depicting a dragon in a castle, the other full of Cavaliers defending a castle. Cavaliers do not walk.

Pictured: Gary Richard Smith

The Rough Riders

How to spot it: Look for the tan hats, blue shirts and khaki breeches of a U.S. Cavalry uniform, circa 1890. (Don't confuse it with Fort Brooke troopers, who wear black hats). The modern-day Rough Riders add suspenders and message buttons, "but you can't see them for all the beads anyway," says 2nd Lt. Mick Fuller.

First sighted: 1978

Known population: 350 men and women

Primary habitat: Hillsborough

Evolution: Modeled after the historic Rough Riders, the 1st Cavalry Regiment that served in the Spanish-American War under Theodore Roosevelt. The Rough Riders passed through Tampa in 1898 on their way to Cuba, and officers decamped at the Tampa Bay Hotel, now the University of Tampa.

Method of locomotion: Members tend to walk en masse, which makes them easy to pick out of the parade blur. "Nobody sticks together like we do," Fuller says. They also have two floats: one that looks like a train with a coal car, and another that resembles a historic Tampa trolley.

Pictured: Robert Alorda

Ye Loyal Krewe of Grace O'Malley

How to spot it: Look for women dressed in luxurious, full gowns in the Elizabethan style. The costumes are designed to be historically authentic, "but some members wear sneakers under their dresses to be comfortable," says Lady of Grace Mary Dietz.

First sighted: 1992

Known population: 150, all female

Primary habitat: Tampa

Evolution: Members of the first all-female krewe met as volunteers for the Festival of Trees. They wanted to continue as a social and volunteer group and decided to make their mark on Gasparilla. They took as their model Irish clan chieftain Grace O'Malley, who sailed from County Mayo, Ireland, in the 16th century to protect the seas off the west coast of the Emerald Isle.

Method of locomotion: Graceful strolling, or, if you're a member of the president's court, riding a float displaying the Krewe's mascot, a sea horse.

Pictured: Peggi Crump

Ye Mystic AirKrewe

How to spot it: Look up

First sighted: 1993

Known population: About 25, male and female. (Most are licensed pilots, but people who want to learn can join.)

Primary habitat: The skies over Hillsborough

Evolution: "We're just a bunch of people who like to fly," says Una "Fletch" Bradd, the krewe's flight coordinator. "We mostly fly out of Peter O. Knight Airport, and we fly over MOSI or the aquarium or wherever somebody needs a little excitement." Harold Bohler of the Tuskegee airmen is a member, as is retired F-4 pilot Dick Arens, who teaches members how to fly small aircraft in formation.

Method of locomotion: Small airplanes, including Cessnas and Pipers, will fly over the parade continuously.

Pictured: Dick Arens

Krewe of Fort Brooke

How to spot it: "We're the ones in the black hats," says Gov. Gen. Todd Bray. Members also sport blue breeches and blue shirts accented by yellow kerchiefs, uniforms that simulate _ in a Hollywood, first-impression kind of way _ Army gear of the last century.

First sighted: 1992

Known population: About 100, men and women

Primary habitat: Hillsborough County

Evolution: Modeled on the history of Fort Brooke, the frontier Army outpost at the mouth of the Hillsborough River that eventually became Tampa. "We try to remind people that Tampa had an interesting past _ that Fort Brooke was Tampa," says Bray, a former Rough Rider who broke away to form his own, smaller group.

Method of locomotion: A float that looks like a frontier fort, with wooden palisades.

Pictured: Ray Dohle

Krewe of the Knights of Sant'Yago

How to spot it: Members are the guys in spectacular silver tunics, white tights, gold-trimmed knee boots and feathered caps. "We're the gentlemen; we don't carry any weapons," says Vincent Mandese, Sant'Yago El Rey XXV, the 1997 regent.

First sighting: 1972

Known population: 225, all men

Primary habitat: Tampa, with a big concentration in Davis Islands

Evolution: Began with a group of five Latin businessmen who wanted to take part in the Gasparilla festivities and preserve Latin culture. They took their title from the brotherhood of the Royal Order of St. James, established in 12th century Spain and named after the apostle who came to the Iberian peninsula to preach. Their crest shows the legendary image of St. James astride a white horse, carrying a flag emblazoned with a cross. The Krewe of Sant'Yago began the tradition of the Illuminated Night Parade in Ybor City, which this year is on Feb. 20.

Method of locomotion: Many knights walk in the parade.

Pictured: Vincent Mandese

Ye Mystic Krewe of Gasparilla

How to spot it: Look for cartoonishly garish pirate costumes and frighteningly realistic face makeup that turns clean-shaven businessmen into dirty, scarred swashbucklers. Though there are other pirates in the parade, these carry gear with the insignia "YMKG" and are the only ones who are allowed to fire weapons during the day parade.

First sighted: 1904

Known population: About 700, all men

Primary habitat: South Tampa

Evolution: This is the dirty band of pirates that started the whole Gasparilla shebang, back when Tampa was a scrawny port town. An exclusive social club, Ye Mystic Krewe took as its motif the legend of Spanish pirate Jose Gaspar, who supposedly plied his trade on the west coast of Florida at the end of the 18th century. The parade began as part of the May Day Festival that accompanied the State Fair every year and has grown to the largest on Florida's west coast. Though the exclusive krewe is still the host of the Gasparilla parade, it welcomes all local krewes to participate in its party.

Method of locomotion: Staggering and swaggering down the parade route or catching one of the krewe's many floats. Members also sail a pirate ship, the Jose Gasparilla, from the Tampa Yacht Club to downtown, where they debark and "invade" the city.

Pictured: Boyd Wynne

Ye Mystic Krewe of Neptune

How to spot it: Costumes are based on British naval uniforms of the 1800s. Officers wear white knickers, black jackets with gold trim and epaulets, white crew socks. Enlisted men's uniforms are white pants, black and white striped shirts with red kerchief, black watch caps. White hat feather signifies current captain, yellow for past captain, past king wears purple, present officers wear red. Medals are awarded for years of service.

First sighted: 1980

Known population: 100 men and women

Primary habitat: Pinellas

Evolution: Formed to give Pinellas-based organizations representation in the Gasparilla Parade. "Our motto is we never have any fun," past captain Dennis Regan said dryly. How did the group arrive at that? "Probably somebody was loaded in 1980 and came up with it."

Method of locomotion: A float resembling a British warship from the early 1800s. Neptune is the official adopted crew of the HMS Bounty when it's docked in St. Petersburg, and in past Gasparillas has sailed the vessel into the invasion.

Pictured: Jack Jacoby

Columbus Celebration of Tampa

n How to spot it: Members are dressed like Spanish nobility circa 1492, with sateen overblouses, breeches and feathered caps for the knights, and brocade dresses and crowns for the princesses and duchesses. The top royalty are dubbed Christopher Columbus and Queen Isabella.

First sighted: 1959

Known population: 50 members, men and women

Primary habitat: Hillsborough

Evolution: Founded by Italian-American businessmen who wanted to honor the explorer, their first act was to erect a statue of their hero at the foot of Bayshore near the Platt Street Bridge. Pageants and balls soon followed. "We're the only krewe to select our royalty in a random drawing; it's not a popularity contest or a beauty contest," says Violet Teston. "We like it that way."

Method of locomotion: A horse-drawn carriage for the princesses and duchesses. The knights have to walk alongside.

Pictured: Joe Teston

Latin American Fiesta Association

How to spot it: Anyone in authentic Latino folk costume is apt to be a member of this club, but senoritas in the lace mantillas of Sevilla, Spain, are its primary visual component.

First sighted: 1927

Known population: About 100

Primary habitat: Tampa

Evolution: Originally called "Latin Carnival," the group was formed to hold pageants for young Hispanic women, who were not accepted in all of Tampa's social circles. Since its founding, the Latin American Fiesta Royal Court has visited more than 30 countries on goodwill missions.

Method of locomotion: A float in the shape of a Spanish comb.

Pictured: Roseann Favata

Gaucho Association of Tampa

How to spot it: Black velvet pants; broad, multiple-buckle belts; black velvet vests with gold trim and custom sequin designs; silk or satin poet shirts; boots.

First sighted: 1950

Known population: 100, men only

Primary habitat: Tampa

Evolution: Once a part of the Latin-American Fiesta Association, this group bases its identity on Argentinian gauchos or cowboys.

Pictured: Johnny Hobby

Bonney-Read Krewe

How to spot it: Costumes are typically black knickers, white leggings, black shoes, black felt capes, vests of varying colors, off-the-shoulder or frilly shirts, buccaneer hats with plumes.

First sighted: 1995

Known population: 21, women only

Primary habitat: Tampa

Evolution: The krewe is named after two female pirates, Anne Bonney and Mary Read. They sailed the Caribbean in the early 1700s on the Vanity _ captained by the famed pirate Calico Jack _ and disguised their sex with male sailors' costumes. "We're women of spirit and wit," said krewe vice president Camille Matthews. "We call ourselves the sisters of the sword."

Method of locomotion: Float with lots of silk greenery and flowers, a cannon replica and even a gallows (Bonney and Read were once sentenced to hang).

Pictured: Carol Ferguson

Crewe of Hernando De Soto

How to spot it: Costumes are copies of 16th century conquistador uniforms: polished silver helmets with feathers (gold and red for crewe-leading "Hernando," black and gold for the captain, any other color for crewe members), knee-high black boots, black tights, pantaloons, white shirts with ruffles at the neck and wrists, swords made in Spain.

First sighted: 1944

Known population: 25 men and women

Primary habitat: Bradenton and Sarasota

Evolution: The crewe is the core of the Hernando Historical Society. It is named after Spanish explorer Hernando De Soto, who is believed to have landed at the mouth of the Manatee River in 1539 and is credited with being the first European to sight and cross the Mississippi River.

Method of locomotion: The float is a half-scale replica of the San Cristobal, which was a caravel sailing craft of De Soto's era. The Hernando rides the float, along with his padre, queen and princess. The officers and crewe march alongside.

Pictured: Mark Hildebrandt

Krewe of Venus

How to spot it: This year the krewe's royal court will adopt the costume theme of famous navigators from the age of exploration: Columbus, Balboa, Magellan, Da Gama and a fellow named Amerigo Vespucci, who lent his name to our continent. The ladies of the court will dress as their wives. Everyone else dresses like 17th century cavaliers and ladies. For the men: white pants with red stripes, black boots, black cavalier hats with gold and purple feathers, purple capes, white blouses and red vests with yellow diagonal stripe. Ladies wear full purple gowns with silver and gold trim.

First sighted: 1965

Known population: 110 men and women

Primary habitat: Tampa

Evolution: Patterned after the all-female Krewe of Venus in New Orleans.

Method of locomotion: Three floats _ the purple and gold royal float with arches and columns, the purple and gold subjects' float and the debutante float fashioned like Cinderella's carriage.

Pictured: Jim Carroll

Anna Maria Island Privateers

How to spot it: Tricky to do, since members have no set uniform. This rowdy krewe tries to emulate the traditional image of a ragtag band of pirates, so look for eye patches, bandanas, swords, knickers and plenty of sneers.

First sighted: 1971

Known population: 40, men only

Also known as: Blackshirts

Primary habitat: Anna Maria Island, Bradenton

Method of locomotion: Float is based on a 16th century Spanish galleon and sports a black powder cannon.

Pictured: John Swager

Krewe of Pair O'Dice

How to spot it: The men's costumes are inspired by Mel Gibson's look in the 1994 western Maverick. Long coats with embroidered vests, cowboy hat, tuxedo shirt, black string tie. Women wear velvet and satin saloon girl dresses trimmed with lace.

First sighted: 1995

Known population: 85

Primary habitat: Tampa

Evolution: The Pair O'Dice's historical context is "basically what you would envision on a riverboat in, say, the 1880s," said member Scott Painton. The idea for the krewe was Tampa native Yvonne Painton's, who grew up watching the Gasparilla parades and always wanting a krewe of her own. Husband Scott, her two sisters and their husbands are co-founders.

Method of locomotion: 50-foot long, two story riverboat float, complete with smoking smokestacks, gang plank and pilot house.

Pictured: Scott Painton

Krewe of Hillsborough

How to spot it: Men: black musketeer hats with feathers, black vest, puffy shirts of varying colors, black pants, black or brown boots. "It's your basic gentlemen-type musketeer look," said Lord of Hillsborough Frank Schiavone. Women: long skirts, blouse with bodice, evening gloves.

First sighted: June 1998

Known population: 55-60

Primary habitat: Tampa

Evolution: The river, bay, county, and now this krewe are named after Lord Hillsborough, British colonial secretary of state while Florida was a territory of England (1763-83).

Method of locomotion: Float with an English castle replica on the back and a representation of modern Tampa's skyline on the front.

Pictured: Frank Schiavone

Krewe of the Caribbean Cowboys

How to spot it: Look for what could be the most casually dressed krewe in the parade. Colorful Hawaiian shirts, light blue jeans or jean shorts, and any sort of hat or shoes are de rigueur for the Cowboys.

First sighted: August 1998

Known population: 13

Primary habitat: Tampa

Evolution: The krewe's founders _ all members of other krewes who formed this one to raise money for St. Joseph's Hospital _ were split between an old West and a Caribbean theme. So they compromised on Caribbean Cowboys. "After we formed we heard through a descendent of Capt. Henry Morgan that his crew was called the Caribbean Cowboys," said president Gene Stephens.

Method of locomotion: Island float with fishing hut, thatched roof tiki bar, wrecked boat and crab traps.

Pictured: Gene Stephens

Royal Order of the Ponce de Leon Conquistadors

How to spot it: They're the ones in 16th century Spanish conquistadors uniforms. Colors vary as conquistador outfits did in those days, with each hue representing a specific Spanish region.

First sighted: 1979

Known population: 70, men only

Primary habitat: Punta Gorda

Evolution: The krewe was founded to commemorate the Spanish influence on Florida's history in general, and Juan Ponce De Leon in particular, the fountain-of-youth seeking Spanish explorer who was the first European to reach Florida in 1513.

Method of locomotion: 50-foot long 16th century Spanish galleon replica float, complete cannon, masts and sails and even a friar.

Grand Krewe de Libertalia

How to spot it: Libertalia's costumes are loosely based on those of Capt. Mission and his crew, the original Libertalians. Some variation is allowed, but mostly you'll see black vinyl pants, red vests with gold trim, white pirate shirts with belts or sashes, buccaneer hats or bandanas and black boots or boot covers such as the ones Jesse Hill is such attire.

First sighted: 1992

Known population: 70 men and women

Primary habitat: Tampa

Evolution: Libertalia took shape after the Gasparilla debacle of 1991. The all-inclusive Libertalia is based on an egalitarian group of 17th century buccaneers who were commissioned by governments to hunt pirate ships and eventually established a democratic, multiracial society on the island of Hispaniola.

Method of locomotion: The Libertalia float sports a tropical island scene with a giant Capt. Mission, arms outstretched in a gesture of welcome.