As soon as the confetti has been cleared away from New Year’s celebrations, Tampa residents begin to prepare for the arrival of Gasparilla.
Visitors to Tampa may be familiar with our day-long festival of pirate-themed partying that takes place at the end of January every year – the Gasparilla Pirate Fest – but there are a variety of world-class events that have adopted the name, creating a busy spring social calendar in Tampa.
Kids of all ages love the brightly colored floats and costumed pirates at Tampa's Children's Gasparilla Parade — Photo courtesy of EventFest, Inc.
Happily for families who don't want to take their kids to the more adult-oriented Gasparilla Pirate Fest, there is the Children's Gasparilla Extravaganza, which takes place the week before the main event.
Children’s Gasparilla is a non-alcoholic family event that's celebrated on Tampa’s beautiful Bayshore Boulevard, with scenic views of the downtown skyline and bay waters.
This year, the event falls on Saturday, Jan. 24, 2015, from 11:00 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. Plan on a full day jam-packed with fun, beginning with a vendor fair and children’s activities spread along the entire route.
From 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. between Rome and Dakota Avenues, kids can participate in the Bicycle & Pedestrian Safety Rodeo, where they’ll be fitted with a free, brand new helmet; they'll use bikes provided to navigate safely through the fun course.
What kid doesn’t want to march in a parade? Children’s Gasparilla offers the little tykes an opportunity to dress up and be part of a parade at the Gasparilla Preschooler's Stroll. From 1:30 p.m. to 2:30 p.m., you can watch as children five and under parade adorably from Howard Avenue to Rome Avenue, geared up in their best pirate attire.
Even the little ones can be part of the parade during the Gasparilla Preschooler's Stroll — Photo courtesy of EventFest, Inc.
The main event kicks off at 3:00 p.m. with an air invasion, featuring a precision parachute jump by the United States Special Operation Jump Team, The Para-Commandos. And at 3:30 p.m., the parade begins. Starring over 100 floats, bands and dance groups, this parade has become one of the largest children’s parades in the country.
But the day is not over yet. You absolutely cannot leave until you witness the “Piratechnic” Extravaganza that begins at 7:00 p.m. The show, one of the largest fireworks shows in the country, tells of a fictitious Piratechnic sea battle; it's all choreographed to a soundtrack broadcast through speakers placed along Bayshore Boulevard,
Fought with the colorful starbursts and howling missiles of fireworks, Pirate Jose Gaspar and Ye Mystic Krewe of Gasparilla overcome opposition in Hillsborough Bay to his Tampa take-over. Thus, the stage is set for the pirate invasion that kicks off the Gasparilla Pirate Fest the following week.
A wonderful day for the kids, all Children’s Gasparilla Extravaganza events are free, although reserved seating can be purchased through the website. This year's event is scheduled for Saturday, Jan. 24, from 11:00 a.m. to 7:30 p.m.