Every late winter and spring, the city of Tampa is overrun with Gasparilla pirate ship floats, as parade after parade takes over Bayshore Boulevard and Ybor City.
The city of St. Petersburg, not so much. Pirates are more of a Tampa thing.
But one Gasparilla pirate ship is heading across the bay next week, when it’ll dock for good in St. Pete.
The Vanity, a two-decade-old float owned by Tampa’s Bonney-Read Krewe, has been purchased by Mark Ferguson, the owner of Ferg’s Sports Bar, 1320 Central Ave. in St. Petersburg. Ferguson plans to put the ship on display in Ferg’s courtyard, where he may rent it out for parties or perhaps convert it to a stage. If nothing else, patrons can come by and get a close-up look starting Monday, when he’ll haul it over from Tampa.
“I just think it’s a great conversation piece,” Ferguson said. “People can take pictures with until I figure out where to place it.”
The Bonney-Read Krewe put the float up for sale a few weeks ago, first approaching other local krewes, then opening it up to a wider audience. Float sales aren’t common, and with two working bathrooms aboard the Vanity, the krewe thought they would have no trouble finding a buyer. But after first asking $37,000 and finding no bidders and put it on eBay, cutting the price to $25,000.
Then the Tampa Bay Times highlighted the krewe’s quest to sell the unusual ride. Ferguson called the next day, offering the krewe $25,000 sight unseen. But it turned out he was one of eight interested buyers, which forced him to go “a little higher than I wanted to go.” The deadline to bid was on Wednesday; in the end, Ferguson’s bid of $33,000 won out.
This isn’t Ferguson’s first time buying a piece of local history. In 2018, he paid $5,060 at auction for a giant spinning globe sign that for decades stood outside the former World Liquors at Central Avenue and 16th Street. It went up at Ferg’s the next year.
The Bonney-Read Krewe already has a new float under construction that should be ready for next year’s parade season, co-founder Camille Matthews said. And members are glad the old one isn’t going far.
“The Bonney-Read Krewe will definitely make forays to Ferg’s to visit the ship that has given us so many great memories,” she said.
The float’s parade days might be done yet. Ferguson said he might eventually hitch it to his truck and pull it through a parade in St. Petersburg, giving the Sunshine City a rare firsthand look at a Gasparilla float in action.
“I won’t be hauling it to Tampa to go to Gasparilla, I’ll tell you that,” he said.