I really think the reason I love living in Tampa so much is because of my husband. We moved to Pinellas county (from Buffalo, NY) when I was ten – the same day O.J. Simpson sent the cops on a car chase in his white Ford Bronco. That has nothing to do with this post, except that O.J. Simpson played for the Buffalo Bills, and how can you forget seeing that chase on tv, if you were old enough?
So anyway….we moved to the area in 1994. We didn’t really even venture to the city of Tampa because well, my parents had four kids to raise, and we were discovering what was around in Largo, Clearwater, and finally Oldsmar, where we ended up settling.
My high school boyfriend lived in Tampa, but it wasn’t the heart of anything interesting, and driving the eight miles into “the city” seemed exciting when I was sixteen.
Jason on the other hand had the best of both worlds as a kid: he grew up in Tampa, went to school and church here. But his family lived in the country of Hillsborough county. Once we started dating, I started to really discover Tampa and fall in love with it.
Gasparilla is an entire experience for Tampa, that dates back to 1904, and if you live here, you have to celebrate at least once (in my opinion)!
I attended my first Gasparilla parade at night, my senior year of high school, newly eighteen. I haven’t been back since. The night parade is a whole experience in and of itself.
Five years later I attended my first day parade (also known as the Gasparilla Pirate Fest) with my new boyfriend, Jason, his friends (most had attended UT), and a few of my friends. At twenty-three, all we did was in fact day drink. And shenanigans were had, and it was a great time.
A year later, we took our niece to the children’s parade, and it was of course, a much different vibe. It was so fun seeing her excitement! Plus, there were shuttles to take you to your car with tired kiddos (something that would not happen during either adult parade).
We’ve been to the day parade in the rain. We’ve gone while doing a Whole 30, and people watched. We’ve taken a year off here or there.
There are krewes in the parade(s), where they dress like pirates, ride floats, and toss beads. They also show support to local charities throughout the year.
If parades and/or crowds ain’t your thang, there are other ways to partake in the whole Gasparailla experience!
There is a street festival, the same weekend as the day parade, held at Curtis Hixon Park that is a newer event, as downtown continues to grow; with live music and waterfront views (also the location where Jason and I had our engagement photos, so Curtis Hixon holds an extra special place in my heart).
There is a Gasparilla Music Festival.
On snapchat, you’ll find a filter of a skull and crossbones, when you’re in the area of the parade route.
It’s a crazy time, but also a fun one. It’s a way of life here, and it’s not just a parade or three to drink at. Though the excuse to have a glass of rum punch in a solo cup at 11 a.m. should you choose, is kind of fun, every now and then. It’s an entire season full of culture, history, shenanigans and a good time. To me, that sums up Tampa beautifully: history, culture, shenanigans, and a good time. It’s all about balance, my friends, and Tampa knows how to do it right.
So while it’s true, you can attend the parade this weekend, and drink all day, you can also take advantage of all that the season of Gasparilla has to offer. In the city, that I love.