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Gasparilla 2024: Pirate parade overtakes Tampa streets

Follow along with dispatches from Gasparilla all day long. Plus, check out our tips for navigating parking, weather and more.
 
A member from Ye Mystic Krewe participates in the festivities during the Gasparilla Parade of Pirates along Bayshore Boulevard on Saturday, Jan. 27, 2024, in Tampa.
A member from Ye Mystic Krewe participates in the festivities during the Gasparilla Parade of Pirates along Bayshore Boulevard on Saturday, Jan. 27, 2024, in Tampa. [ JEFFEREE WOO | Times ]
Published Jan. 27|Updated Jan. 28

Tampa, arrrghh you ready?

More than 300,000 people — including over 50 krewes and a 120-unit parade — plundered along Bayshore Boulevard for the Gasparilla parade. Follow along with Tampa Bay Times reporters and photographers.

5:25 p.m.

At the far south end of Bayshore, it’s as if Gasparilla never happened. Litter crews with the city of Tampa are on the scene and working to remedy the ruckus made by parade-goers.

This concludes our live coverage of Gasparilla. Thank you for reading!

— Jack Prator

The scene at the end of the Gasparilla 2024 parade route.
The scene at the end of the Gasparilla 2024 parade route. [ JACK PRATOR | Times ]

4:47 p.m.

Shelly Baksh has been coming to Gasparilla since she was a little girl. She’s not sure of the exact number, but she’d guess over 40 years.

She now brings her son and husband to the festival she loves so much. Her husband rolls her around, since she wears a mermaid tail.

Baksh says there should be more mermaid representation at the parade.

”There’s just something nostalgic here. I can’t get enough of the general atmosphere of happiness,” she said.

— Lesley Cosme Torres

Shelly Baksh celebrates Gasparilla 2024 as a mermaid.
Shelly Baksh celebrates Gasparilla 2024 as a mermaid. [ LESLEY COSME TORRES | Times ]

4:20 p.m.

Check out these scenes from the parade route captured by Times photographers:

Thousands of revelers cheer for beads during the Gasparilla Parade of Pirates on Saturday, Jan. 27, 2024 in Tampa.
Thousands of revelers cheer for beads during the Gasparilla Parade of Pirates on Saturday, Jan. 27, 2024 in Tampa. [ LUIS SANTANA | Times ]
Revelers atop a boat dance and cheer during the Gasparilla Parade of Pirates on Saturday, Jan. 27, 2024 in Tampa.
Revelers atop a boat dance and cheer during the Gasparilla Parade of Pirates on Saturday, Jan. 27, 2024 in Tampa. [ LUIS SANTANA | Times ]
Thousands of revelers cheer for beads during the Gasparilla Parade of Pirates on Saturday, Jan. 27, 2024 in Tampa.
Thousands of revelers cheer for beads during the Gasparilla Parade of Pirates on Saturday, Jan. 27, 2024 in Tampa. [ LUIS SANTANA | Times ]
Thousands of revelers cheer for beads during the Gasparilla Parade of Pirates on Saturday, Jan. 27, 2024 in Tampa.
Thousands of revelers cheer for beads during the Gasparilla Parade of Pirates on Saturday, Jan. 27, 2024 in Tampa. [ LUIS SANTANA | Times ]
Pirates atop a parade float are seen winding along Bayshore blvd. during the Gasparilla Parade of Pirates on Saturday, Jan. 27, 2024 in Tampa.
Pirates atop a parade float are seen winding along Bayshore blvd. during the Gasparilla Parade of Pirates on Saturday, Jan. 27, 2024 in Tampa. [ LUIS SANTANA | Times ]
Revelers atop a boat dance and cheer during the Gasparilla Parade of Pirates on Saturday, Jan. 27, 2024 in Tampa.
Revelers atop a boat dance and cheer during the Gasparilla Parade of Pirates on Saturday, Jan. 27, 2024 in Tampa. [ LUIS SANTANA | Times ]
Revelers atop the Davis Island Bridge reach for beads tossed in the air during the Gasparilla Parade of Pirates on Saturday, Jan. 27, 2024 in Tampa.
Revelers atop the Davis Island Bridge reach for beads tossed in the air during the Gasparilla Parade of Pirates on Saturday, Jan. 27, 2024 in Tampa. [ LUIS SANTANA | Times ]
Thousands of revelers cheer for beads during the Gasparilla Parade of Pirates on Saturday, Jan. 27, 2024 in Tampa.
Thousands of revelers cheer for beads during the Gasparilla Parade of Pirates on Saturday, Jan. 27, 2024 in Tampa. [ LUIS SANTANA | Times ]
An unnamed Ye Mystic Krewe of Gasparilla pirate is seen on the street during the Gasparilla Parade of Pirates on Saturday, Jan. 27, 2024 in Tampa.
An unnamed Ye Mystic Krewe of Gasparilla pirate is seen on the street during the Gasparilla Parade of Pirates on Saturday, Jan. 27, 2024 in Tampa. [ LUIS SANTANA | Times ]

3:50 p.m.

There’s a range of moods visible as the Bayshore Boulevard party rages on. Some angrily jostle people in the crowd. Others stop to compliment fellow parade-goers’ outfits. And some are asleep in the grass.

Good luck getting internet service out here. For those trying to contact their friends, cell phone calls are also tough thanks to the thumping music.

”I’m calling you because absolutely nothing is going through,” one guy screamed to his friend on the phone.

— Jack Prator and Lesley Cosme Torres

The Krewe of Alegria tosses beads to people during the Gasparilla Parade of Pirates along Bayshore Boulevard on Saturday,Jan. 27, 2024, in Tampa.
The Krewe of Alegria tosses beads to people during the Gasparilla Parade of Pirates along Bayshore Boulevard on Saturday,Jan. 27, 2024, in Tampa. [ JEFFEREE WOO | Times ]
Florida Senator Darryl Rouson drives by people in a car during the Gasparilla Parade of Pirates along Bayshore Boulevard on Saturday,Jan. 27, 2024, in Tampa.
Florida Senator Darryl Rouson drives by people in a car during the Gasparilla Parade of Pirates along Bayshore Boulevard on Saturday,Jan. 27, 2024, in Tampa. [ JEFFEREE WOO | Times ]

3:20 p.m.

Some Gasparilla fun facts for you: That Ye Mystic Krewe of Gasparilla “Pirates’ Parapet” float is one of 12 floats that the krewe will have in the parade. The original krewe, which organizes the whole event, is so large that it can’t be contained to one float. The Parapet is one of their newer ones, debuting in 2018 with a treasure chest that opens and closes. A very noisy band of pirates shoot off pop guns and cannons on a replica of a Spanish fort with four parapets.

One family has built and maintained all of YMKG’s floats for the last 35 years. Here’s the history.

— Sharon Kennedy Wynne

Members of Ye Mystic Krewe of Gasparilla sail on the Jose Gasparilla pirate ship and wait to arrive at the Tampa Convention Center during the Gasparilla Invasion on Saturday, Jan. 27, 2024, in Tampa.
Members of Ye Mystic Krewe of Gasparilla sail on the Jose Gasparilla pirate ship and wait to arrive at the Tampa Convention Center during the Gasparilla Invasion on Saturday, Jan. 27, 2024, in Tampa. [ JEFFEREE WOO | Times ]

2:55 p.m.

People grab beads that are thrown from the floats during the Gasparilla Parade of Pirates along Bayshore Boulevard on Saturday, Jan. 27, 2024, in Tampa.
People grab beads that are thrown from the floats during the Gasparilla Parade of Pirates along Bayshore Boulevard on Saturday, Jan. 27, 2024, in Tampa. [ JEFFEREE WOO | Times ]

The J.C. Newman float — a replica of their red brick cigar factory in Ybor — features a man rolling cigars along the parade route. That’s indeed a working clock tower on the float, but it’s also a bathroom in disguise.

For more behind-the-scenes details on the floats, check out this story.

Also spotted on the route: shirtless comic Bert Kreischer, a Tampa native who is serving as the parade’s grand marshal, and 101-year-old Buffalo soldier Roy J. Caldwood, honored as a community hero. His car was followed by the Buffalo Soldiers Tampa chapter Gasparilla float.

“I’d rather be over there talking with the fans,” Caldwood told WFLA News Channel 8 meteorologist Leigh Spann, pointing at the crowd.

— Sharon Kennedy Wynne and Gabrielle Calise

Grand marshal Bert Kreischer, comedian and Tampa Bay native, tosses beads during the Gasparilla Parade of Pirates along Bayshore Boulevard on Saturday, Jan. 27, 2024, in Tampa.
Grand marshal Bert Kreischer, comedian and Tampa Bay native, tosses beads during the Gasparilla Parade of Pirates along Bayshore Boulevard on Saturday, Jan. 27, 2024, in Tampa. [ JEFFEREE WOO | Times ]

2: 35 p.m.

The parade is now in full swing, and the crowds stretch curb-to-curb.

”This is the worst part of Gasparilla,” said one man as he pushed through a throng of screaming people.

One woman set up a folding table to get better access to beads at Gasparilla on Saturday, January 27, 2024.
One woman set up a folding table to get better access to beads at Gasparilla on Saturday, January 27, 2024. [ JACK PRATOR | Times ]

One woman in platform boots brought a folding table to stand on that gave her an extra edge competing for the beads flying through the air.

Her advantage wasn’t appreciated. Those around her yelled “cheater!” as she racked up a bundle of plastic necklaces.

Elsewhere on Bayshore, some buccaneers climbed trees for their chance at bling. Is this the best or worst spot for catching beads?

— Jack Prator and Lesley Cosme Torres

Pirates try all kinds of methods for attracting beads, such as climbing trees.
Pirates try all kinds of methods for attracting beads, such as climbing trees. [ LESLEY COSME TORRES | Times ]

1:50 p.m.

Sweaty pirates seek refuge underneath a clump of palm trees, a rare shady patch on the route. Captains who wore coats to Gasparilla last year are stripping off their tricorn hats and ruffled tops today.

Temperatures are expected to hit the high 70s or low 80s in Tampa. The parade won’t start for another 40 minutes, so some on Bayshore are camping out on blankets.

”Is all of today gonna be this hot?” one girl asked her friend.

— Gabrielle Calise and Lesley Cosme Torres

Pirates strip down and fan themselves at the start of the Gasparilla parade route on Bayshore Boulevard on Saturday, January 27, 2024.
Pirates strip down and fan themselves at the start of the Gasparilla parade route on Bayshore Boulevard on Saturday, January 27, 2024. [ JACK PRATOR | Times ]

1:30 p.m.

The only thing that you can hear over the bass of the music is the jingle of pirate belts. Bayshore is lined with revelers in pointy hats, tall black boots and milk jugs, also known as borgs, filled with alcohol.

Also popular on the route: Puffy blouses, inflatable dinosaur costumes and T-shirts with naughty slogans.

“Drinking rum before noon doesn’t make you an alcoholic. It makes you a Florida pirate!” said one shirt.

“It’s a bad day to be a beer,” read another.

Another guy wore a shirt with a command: Show me your [insert crude anatomical word].

“Oh my god, did you see that guy’s shirt?” one girl said to her friend as she passed. “Isn’t he married?”

— Jack Prator and Lesley Cosme Torres

1:05 p.m.

Tampa has fallen to the pirates.

The scurvy members of Ye Mystic Krewe of Gasparilla have stumbled off the Jose Gasparilla ship to demand the key to the city from Mayor Jane Castor.

“I think the cost may be too high. What do we say? Do we give up the key?” Castor asked the crowd at the Tampa Convention Center. “If we surrender, we get a parade!”

She made her decision swiftly.

“We’ll give them the key to the city — but it doesn’t open any doors,” Castor said. “It only opens the heart of our city... Let’s have a parade, everybody!”

Cue the cannon fire and get ready to catch beads by the fistful. Next, pirates will load onto their floats and parade down Bayshore at 2:30 p.m.

— Gabrielle Calise

Tampa Bay native, comedian and grand marshall of the Gasparilla 2024 Parade of Pirates, Bert Kreischer, is pictured on board the Jose Gasparilla pirate ship alongside members of Ye Mystic Krewe of Gasparilla as they arrive at the Tampa Convention Center to demand the key of the city from the mayor before the parade alongside the waterfront, Saturday, Jan. 27, 2024 in Tampa.
Tampa Bay native, comedian and grand marshall of the Gasparilla 2024 Parade of Pirates, Bert Kreischer, is pictured on board the Jose Gasparilla pirate ship alongside members of Ye Mystic Krewe of Gasparilla as they arrive at the Tampa Convention Center to demand the key of the city from the mayor before the parade alongside the waterfront, Saturday, Jan. 27, 2024 in Tampa. [ LUIS SANTANA | Times ]

12:55 p.m.

In Tampa, our pirates may be chaotic, but they are still prompt.

The Jose Gasparilla has already docked and will soon start unloading pirates at the Tampa Convention Center — right on schedule. Next, they’ll take over the city.

— Gabrielle Calise

Tampa Bay native, comedian and grand marshall of the Gasparilla 2024 Parade of Pirates, Bert Kreischer, is pictured on board the Jose Gasparilla pirate ship alongside members of Ye Mystic Krewe of Gasparilla as they arrive at the Tampa Convention Center to demand the key of the city from the mayor before the parade alongside the waterfront, Saturday, Jan. 27, 2024 in Tampa.
Tampa Bay native, comedian and grand marshall of the Gasparilla 2024 Parade of Pirates, Bert Kreischer, is pictured on board the Jose Gasparilla pirate ship alongside members of Ye Mystic Krewe of Gasparilla as they arrive at the Tampa Convention Center to demand the key of the city from the mayor before the parade alongside the waterfront, Saturday, Jan. 27, 2024 in Tampa. [ LUIS SANTANA | Times ]

12:42 p.m.

La’kee Goodwin and Quentin Boyd, from Town ‘N Country, are enjoying their third year as pirates at Gasparilla. They moved here from Chicago four years ago and said their old city didn’t have anything like this.

“It keeps us coming back,” Boyd said.

They’ll spend the day people watching and enjoying each other’s company — along with removing more from their costumes as the day keeps getting hotter. According to forecasters from WFLA News Channel 8, it could reach the high 80s.

— Lesley Cosme Torres

La’kee Goodwin and Quentin Boyd, of Town ‘N Country, enjoy Gasparilla festivities on January 27, 2024.
La’kee Goodwin and Quentin Boyd, of Town ‘N Country, enjoy Gasparilla festivities on January 27, 2024. [ LESLEY COSME TORRES | Times ]

12:37 p.m.

Here comes the Jose Gasparilla on Saturday, January 27, 2024.
Here comes the Jose Gasparilla on Saturday, January 27, 2024. [ JEFFEREE WOO | Times ]

The Jose Gasparilla will soon reach the Tampa Convention Center. It’s a dramatic look as Tampa Fire Rescue boats shoot huge sprays of water into the sky while leading the pirate ship into the harbor.

This also serves a safety purpose. Those big arcs of water keep hundreds of private boats away from the front of the pirate ship, which is basically a barge. Three tugboats are used to pull it from the front, push it forward from behind and steer it from the side. One of the tugs, the Dorothy, has been working in the ports of Florida since 1898, well before Gasparilla started. Few notice the tugs doing all the work with more than 1,000 boats and yachts swarming around the spectacle.

— Sharon Kennedy Wynne

12:23 p.m.

Who’s at Gasparilla enjoying this warm weather? Photographer Jeff Woo captured these scenes along the parade route.

Eduardo Socha Cortes, 24, of Tampa, wears a Gasparilla-themed hat, while taking in the festivities before the start of the Gasparilla Invasion on Saturday, Jan. 27, 2024, in Tampa.
Eduardo Socha Cortes, 24, of Tampa, wears a Gasparilla-themed hat, while taking in the festivities before the start of the Gasparilla Invasion on Saturday, Jan. 27, 2024, in Tampa. [ JEFFEREE WOO | Times ]
Robert Saliva, 53, of Tampa, smokes a cigar, while taking in the festivities before the start of the Gasparilla Invasion on Saturday, Jan. 27, 2024, in Tampa.
Robert Saliva, 53, of Tampa, smokes a cigar, while taking in the festivities before the start of the Gasparilla Invasion on Saturday, Jan. 27, 2024, in Tampa. [ JEFFEREE WOO | Times ]
Jan Beach, 69, of Tampa, wears a Gasparilla-themed mask and takes in the festivities before the start of the Gasparilla Invasion on Saturday, Jan. 27, 2024, in Tampa.
Jan Beach, 69, of Tampa, wears a Gasparilla-themed mask and takes in the festivities before the start of the Gasparilla Invasion on Saturday, Jan. 27, 2024, in Tampa. [ JEFFEREE WOO | Times ]
Beads are displayed for decoration before the start of the Gasparilla Invasion on Saturday, Jan. 27, 2024, in Tampa.
Beads are displayed for decoration before the start of the Gasparilla Invasion on Saturday, Jan. 27, 2024, in Tampa. [ JEFFEREE WOO | Times ]
Groups gather together to take in the festivities before the start of the Gasparilla Invasion on Saturday, Jan. 27, 2024, in Tampa.
Groups gather together to take in the festivities before the start of the Gasparilla Invasion on Saturday, Jan. 27, 2024, in Tampa. [ JEFFEREE WOO | Times ]

11:49 a.m.

Jim Merrick has lived in Pinellas County for 30 years. A Gasparilla veteran, he says a lot has changed: more people and less clothing.

The growth is a good thing, according to Merrick. For one, the celebrations are better organized now. Watching the boats and floats drift down Bayshore while enjoying the weather outside has kept him coming back.

”It’s a little warm this year,” he said. “But I’d rather be warm than cold.”

Left to right: Dee White, Beth Hanrahan, Jim Merrick and Bj Johnson are ready for Gasparilla on Saturday, January 27, 2024.
Left to right: Dee White, Beth Hanrahan, Jim Merrick and Bj Johnson are ready for Gasparilla on Saturday, January 27, 2024. [ JACK PRATOR | Times ]

11:22 a.m.

Check out an early look at the crowd in front of the Tampa Convention Center. These sailors are awaiting the Jose Gasparilla pirate ship, which will launch at 11:30 a.m.

Hundreds of revelers pack the riverwalk in front of the Tampa Convention Center waiting for the Jose Gasparilla pirate ship on Gasparilla,  Saturday, Jan. 27, 2024 in Tampa.
Hundreds of revelers pack the riverwalk in front of the Tampa Convention Center waiting for the Jose Gasparilla pirate ship on Gasparilla, Saturday, Jan. 27, 2024 in Tampa. [ LUIS SANTANA | Times ]

10:55 a.m.

Misty Elliott and Haley Blaire are independent filmmakers and transplants from Baton Rouge, LA. This is the mother-daughter duo’s second year at Gasparilla.

They moved to Tampa in 2018 and prefer the pirate fest to their home state’s Mardi Gras parade.

”The atmosphere here is a lot better,” Elliott, 49, said. “A lot safer.”

Still, Blaire, 22, said they feel at home catching beads and drinking on the Gulf Coast.

Misty Elliott, 49, and Haley Blaire, 22, at the 2024 Gasparilla Parade.
Misty Elliott, 49, and Haley Blaire, 22, at the 2024 Gasparilla Parade. [ JACK PRATOR | Times ]

10:42 a.m.

For three years, Caribbean Pearle has been the star of the show on a float. She’s helped others with float decorations and costumes “because I’m a professional pirate,” she said.

For her fourth Gasparilla — and final year living in Florida — she’s enjoying the parade as a viewer. Find her strolling around Bayshore Boulevard, taking photos with strangers and making new friends.

Caribbean Pearle celebrates her fourth Gasparilla on Saturday, January 27, 2024.
Caribbean Pearle celebrates her fourth Gasparilla on Saturday, January 27, 2024. [ LESLEY COSME TORRES | Times ]

10:20 a.m.

Boats are cruising down the Hillsborough River and out to Tampa Bay as Gasparilla festivities begin. Pirate flags are flowing and Bad Bunny is blasting from the speakers.

As swashbucklers filter in, check out the city of Tampa’s Gasparilla marketing video, inspired by “Barbie.”

“We thought we’d swap swords for stilettos,” Castor said via text of “The Barbie Pirate Movie,” which is just under two minutes long and available on YouTube.

— Jack Prator and Paul Guzzo

9:40 a.m.

This is Michael Paine’s third consecutive Gasparilla. The 39-year-old Lakeland resident comes to Tampa often, and the annual pirate fest is one of the reasons he’s stayed in Florida.

Paine hasn’t had a haircut in three years. And while he says his shaggy curls and beard weren’t grown out with the parade in mind, it helps complete the look. He started his day hanging out on the Tampa Riverwalk and didn’t know where the day might take him.

”Gasparilla is about being a pirate,” he said. “So if I had a plan, I wouldn’t be a pirate.”

— Jack Prator

Lakeland resident Michael Paine arrived ready for his third Gasparilla on the morning of Saturday, January 27, 2024.
Lakeland resident Michael Paine arrived ready for his third Gasparilla on the morning of Saturday, January 27, 2024. [ JACK PRATOR | Times ]

Gasparilla weather

Heading out early to secure your spot on the parade route? Expect temps in the mid-60s and possible patchy fog. It’ll warm up to low 80s as the day goes on, or mid 70s closest to the water.

Read our full weather report here.

Gasparilla Parade and Pirate Fest schedule

Pirate invasion: The day starts with the first sighting of the fully rigged pirate ship Jose Gasparilla — actually a barge dressed up as an 18th century pirate ship that is pulled by tug boats. From 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m., the movie-worthy ship with nearly 300 flags and three steel masts standing 100 feet tall will emerge at the south end of Hillsborough Bay with cannons firing.

As hundreds of members of Ye Mystic Krewe of Gasparilla hang from every fixture of the 165-foot vessel, it will lead a flotilla of hundreds of personal boats and yachts to join the “invasion.” Tampa Fire Rescue boats will spray dramatic arcs of water in front of the ship as it heads to the Tampa Convention Center.

Pirate Parade: The theater continues after the ship docks and those aboard demand the mayor surrender the key to the city of Tampa to the captain of Ye Mystic Krewe of Gasparilla. Once they have the key, pirates celebrate by parading through the city starting at 2 p.m. The parade will begin at Bay to Bay and Bayshore boulevards and end at Cass Street and Ashley Drive.

A Pirate Fest will take place along the Riverwalk in downtown Tampa with live music on two stages before and after the parade in Curtis Hixon Park and MacDill Park from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. After-parties will be going on all night in downtown Tampa and Ybor City.

— Sharon Kennedy Wynne

Gasparilla tips

Parking: City garages will charge $20 event parking in downtown garages, and $12 in Ybor and other outlying garages. The free TECO line streetcar will be available from 8:30 a.m.-2 a.m. running between Ybor and downtown. But be aware that some streetcar stations are closed to keep the loop moving faster. HART recommends boarding at Station 2 next to Centro Ybor. See gohart.org for schedules. Also, the free HART bus shuttle service will run 9:30 a.m.-7 p.m. to transport people between Ybor City and downtown and also the Channel District and downtown Tampa.

For $4 (cash only or the Flamingo Fares mobile app) you can get an all-day pass for the HART park-and-ride options that take you to the Marion Transit Center, 1211 N. Marion St. in downtown Tampa.

Numerous schools and businesses in the area will charge to park near the parade, usually for $15 to $40 depending on the location.

Alcohol: A large wet zone will be set up along the parade route and in Curtis Hixon Park, stretching from Gandy Boulevard to Cass Street, but open containers are prohibited outside those areas.

Packing list: Sunscreen, water, cash and snacks. Don’t forget hand sanitizer and tissues for the portable toilets.

Bathrooms: There are hundreds of portable toilets lining Bayshore Boulevard and the Pirate Fest, so stay out of the bushes because police officers have no tolerance. You can also use the restrooms at Publix, 243 Bayshore Blvd.; Hyde Park Village on the west side of Snow Avenue; and Kate Jackson Park at Rome and Snow avenues.

— Sharon Kennedy Wynne

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