1. Arts & Entertainment

Gasparilla and your cell phone: 5 ways to make sure you stay connected

Service suffers when so many people are texting their friends and posting their photos. Follow these tips Saturday for digital dominance.
Published Jan. 24
Updated Jan. 26

TAMPA — As some 200,000 revelers pour onto Bayshore Boulevard, the story is always the same — texts don’t send, maps don’t load, friends get lost amid a sea of beads, tricorn hats and Seinfeldian puffy shirts.

The simple fact is downtown Tampa’s cell towers aren’t robust enough to deal with the throngs of people stumbling through the city, many hopped up on milk punch and rum drinks. Gasparilla organizers EventFest said Verizon is bringing in portable cell towers to shoulder some of the load for the Saturday parade, but it still might not be enough.

Don’t count on your MiFi router, either. These portable cell phone hot spots operate off of the same towers as your phone so they’ll face the same challenge. Still, there are ways to keep your smartphone from devolving into an expensive paperweight and you from getting stranded.

Teachers and administrators dressed the part last month as Tampa's Bellamy Elementary School featured the book, "Teach Like a Pirate." From left are teachers Brittany Sawyer, April Woods and Amanda Sligh, with assistant principal Theresa Seits in the foreground.

Instagram might not be so instant

Grand marshal Dave Bautista just tossed you some beads and invited you for a cameo in the next Guardians of the Galaxy movie! This moment needs to be documented and shared. Quick, to the Instagram story! But wait, why is it still uploading? What do you do?

Related: Dave Bautista, Marvel’s ‘Drax,’ joins Tampa officer to lead Gasparilla parade

Unfortunately, Instagram might not be so instant this time. Consider taking videos and photos with your phone’s camera and prepping them through the social media app of your choosing, then save it and post when the signal gets a little better. It might not be a perfect solution, but your followers will eventually see some of the things that a CamelBak of vodka helped you forget.

Loading blanks into guns and cannons is a never-ending task for Ye Mystique Krewe of Gasparilla during the annual Gasparilla parade. [Times (2008)]

Always have a backup

You’ve snapped your photos and videos. They’re all saved. The parade is done and you’re ready to meet up with friends or trade info with new ones. Oh no! Your battery is in the red. How could this happen? Turns out, our phones might be pulling more battery power when there’s no signal because they’re constantly working to find a connection.

The solution here is twofold. First, you can stop the drain by putting your phone in airplane mode for a bit and/or you can carry a portable charger and juice up on the go without missing any of the action.

Christian Gribbs, 19, of Tampa, sports a pirate eye patch during the 2019 Gasparilla Parade of Pirates. [ALESSANDRA DA PRA | TIMES]

X marks the spot

No signal means no maps will load. And if you’re not familiar with the area, this could be a problem. Fortunately, there’s a solution. Take a screen shot of your map showing as many street names as possible. Your phone might not tell you where to go, but you can act like a pirate and read the map and it will still help get you where you need to be.

What’s more, you should set a meeting point with friends for the end of the parade. People tend to get lost in the shuffle and there’s a good chance you won’t be able to call or text. If everyone agrees on a meeting spot, you can pin it on your map, save the screen shot and go analog for a bit.

Dogs can get their pirate on, too, this time of year. Just ask Harley, a 9-year-old Chihuahua Pekingnese mix, who joined owner Richard Nordstrom in 2014 for Barkarilla in Ybor City.

Walk the plank (or a few blocks away)

The cell towers in the area directly around the parade route are almost guaranteed to be overloaded, no matter your carrier. But, there are plenty more in the surrounding area just waiting to send out that picture you snapped of Michael Bolton dressed as Jack Sparrow.

Related: This Gasparilla, let Jack Sparrow — er, Michael Bolton — tell you his tale

If you walk a few blocks away from the water, it shouldn’t take long to get some signal off a different tower or find a bar or restaurant that has some WiFi. Post at will.

Grand marshal Mario Lopez gets into the spirit during the Gasparilla 2019 parade on Saturday, Jan. 26, 2019 in Tampa, FL. TAILY2019 Gasparilla Parade of Pirates. [TAILYR IRVINE | TIMES ]

Lost at sea? Get rescued (how to summon an Uber or Lyft)

Captain Morgan rum, the city of Tampa and Lyft are partnering to help you keep all that surge pricing at bay. If you use the code CAPTAINMORGAN20 in the Lyft app, you can get $20 off rides within 5 miles of Tampa’s downtown.

Uber users won’t be able to call a ride from certain areas near the parade, but Uber spokesman Jose Correso suggests following these steps to get that ride. Be sure to take advantage of the app’s PIN verification so no one steals your ride.

  • Downtown: Walk east toward North Florida Avenue. Once there, you will be able to request a ride.
  • Harbor Island: Walk east of Harbor Island Boulevard and south of Knights Run Ave, then tap Request.
  • Hyde Park North: Head north toward the University of Tampa. After you've reached Cleveland Avenue, you'll be able to request.
  • Hyde Park Center: Head north of Swann Avenue and east of South Boulevard, and from there, request a ride.
  • Hillsborough Bay: If you’re enjoying the festivities on the high seas, head back to land to request your ride! You will not be connected with a driver until you are on land.


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