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Gasparilla, children’s parade canceled over coronavirus concerns

The next parades are planned for Jan. 22 and 29, 2022.
Floats make their way down the parade route during the Gasparilla Parade of Pirates on Saturday, Jan. 25, 2020 in Tampa.
Floats make their way down the parade route during the Gasparilla Parade of Pirates on Saturday, Jan. 25, 2020 in Tampa. [ MARTHA ASENCIO RHINE | Times ]
Published Feb. 16
Updated Feb. 16

The coronavirus has plundered the Gasparilla Parade of Pirates and the Children’s Gasparilla parade planned for April 10 and 17.

Ye Mystic Krewe of Gasparilla, which has organized the event in Tampa since 1904, announced on Tuesday that after postponing the events from their original January dates, it was “in our community’s best interest to refrain from hosting festivities this year.”

Related: Gasparilla has ben canceled before

The raucous day of a fake pirate invasion — in which they capture the key to the city and parade through downtown, tossing beads and baubles to the crowds — has been canceled a handful of times over the last century due to world events such as wars.

“This year, our pirates are making a similar decision to remain offshore and table their invasion plans until the seas calm,” the announcement from Ye Mystic Krewe of Gasparilla and EventFest said.

The crowd lining Bayshore Boulevard celebrate during the Gasparilla 2019 parade. Organizers have canceled and will have the Children’s Gasparilla Jan. 22 next year, and the Gasparilla Pirate Fest will go on Jan. 29, 2022.
The crowd lining Bayshore Boulevard celebrate during the Gasparilla 2019 parade. Organizers have canceled and will have the Children’s Gasparilla Jan. 22 next year, and the Gasparilla Pirate Fest will go on Jan. 29, 2022. [ Times (2019) ]

Peter Lackman, captain of Ye Mystic Krewe of Gasparilla, said the decision wasn’t made in a vacuum, that they were working with the city and Tampa General Hospital to come up with a plan to hold the event safely.

“We went through the iterations of what a parade would be like, working to be as COVID-safe as we could possibly be. Have you ever been to a Gasparilla before?” Lackman said. “Knowing how Gasparilla is, it’s hard to imagine social distancing going on as Gasparilla brings hundreds of thousands of people to Bayshore.”

There was much debate on the krewe’s board, but he said it became obvious what they had to do. Asked about the Super Bowl, which brought images of crowds of people partying in Ybor City and cheering on the team at a Riverwalk parade, Lackman declined to say that prompted the decision.

“Everyone wants to get back to that time to gather and party,” Lackman said, ”but I don’t think everything is ready for that yet.”

Tampa Mayor Jane Castor has defended the Super Bowl boat parade, noting it was held outside. Plus, masks were required, she said, though no citations were issued for the many who didn’t wear them.

At a Port Tampa Bay board meeting Tuesday morning, where Castor is a commissioner, the Gasparilla news was announced. While she didn’t comment on it, she did take a few minutes to talk about the city’s successes during the Super Bowl, especially with open-air outdoor events.

“Who does a parade like Tampa?” Castor said. “You can’t top that for a Super Bowl parade. And neither the Stanley Cup nor the Lombardi Trophy went for a swim.”

Later in the day, Castor released a statement that after trying to work with the krewe on a safety plan, “Alas, there was no secret treasure map containing the golden solution, so the Krewe made the decision, in the best interest of our community, to cancel this year’s festivities.”

Lackman noted that events like the Super Bowl Experience, which was ticketed on the Riverwalk, made it easier to control the size of the crowd and enforce masks and distancing. But a free and open event like Gasparilla makes that difficult.

The cannons will boom once again at the Children’s Gasparilla Parade on Jan. 22 next year, organizers said, and the Gasparilla Pirate Fest will happen Jan. 29, 2022.

Those who purchased reserved and bleacher seating for the 2021 parade can choose to keep a credit on their account and receive an additional 15 percent more on the value of their purchase, or they can donate the value of their tickets to the Ye Mystic Krewe of Gasparilla Community Fund, which supports scholarships and community food programs. Contact office@eventfest.com or (813) 251-8844.