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Amy Scherzer's Diary: Gasparilla 2019 pirates and parties

Gasparilla 2019 cut loose with weeks of festivities before and after Ye Mystic Krewe and 60 other social clubs blasted bands, beads and beer down Bayshore Boulevard.
Brooke Melendi, left, and Martin Shine support the Gasparilla Bash benefitting Rotary Club of Tampa Foundation at the Rialto Theatre on Jan. 12.
Brooke Melendi, left, and Martin Shine support the Gasparilla Bash benefitting Rotary Club of Tampa Foundation at the Rialto Theatre on Jan. 12.
Published Jan. 30, 2019

Lucky for us, Tampa's pioneer promoters didn't pick a singing cigar or dancing minaret to be our city mascot. Our crowd-pleasing pirate, Jose Gaspar, lends his fictional but fun-loving spirit to any charity, corporate or neighborhood party; to art, film, music festivals and a football team, too. Gasparilla 2019 cut loose with weeks of festivities before and after Ye Mystic Krewe and 60 other social clubs blasted bands, beads and beer down Bayshore Boulevard.

YMKG Capt. Richard Chapman and his first mate Ginger hugged and mugged with hundreds of his minions pouring into Ye Captain's Ball, the official start of the weekend bacchanalia Jan. 24 at the Tampa Yacht Club. Men preening in pirate puffery and women shimmering in sequins drank and danced like it was in their DNA. Well, I suppose it is.

Rotarians and other civic privateers started their party even earlier at the Rotary Club of Tampa Foundation's second annual Gasparilla Bash. President Filiberto Valero and event chairwoman Christy Vogel greeted 200 guests Jan. 12 at the Rialto Theatre, including a bachelorette party who brought Dad along to dance to his favorite band, Bus Stop, during the VIP party. By the time the Black Honkeys took the stage, the crowd had plundered the buffet and seized the dance floor.

The Rotary Club, rooted in Tampa nearly as long as the Gasparilla festival, donated $50,000 to local nonprofits last year.

Junior League of Tampa Gasparilla Invasion Party chairwoman Julie Johnston and committee wore red T-shirts with "Pirates with a Purpose" written on the back Saturday, Jan. 26. Begun as a free children's party, the sold-out flotilla watch brunch at the Davis Islands headquarters is now adults only. The 500 guests drank all through breakfast and lunch, danced to stay warm, and their $90 doubloon tickets raised $15,000 for community projects.

Carmine and Paul Dalton have organized a potluck picnic for 300 friends and relatives at the Davis Islands Garden Club every Gasparilla Day since 2006. They charge by the carload to divvy up the cost, and the best part, besides her breakfast burritos? "We return early the next day and make sure the grounds are spotless," Paul said.

My annual strolling survey of dozens of corporate tents along the parade route counted hundreds of well-fed, well-beaded, well-behaved folks. The City of Tampa tent was full of mayoral and other candidates and Amalie Oil hospitality was non-stop as Carmen and Harry Barkett generously entertained 800 clients and friends.

Thanks, Jose Gaspar, you sure know how to party.

Contact Amy Scherzer at amyscherzsdiary@gmail.com.