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Posted by mlavoy on February 21, 2020
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The Gasparilla season started with a story. A story about Jose’ Gaspar, the legendary buccaneer pirate who operated off the west coast of what was the Spanish Florida from the 1780s until the 1820s.

The story is that he was a Spanish nobleman and advisor to King Charles III of Spain who was exiled after a scandalous romance in the court. He established a “pirate kingdom” on Gasparilla Island south of Tampa Bay.

The story goes on that he came to premature death by his own hand in the 1821, when to avoid capture by the pirate hunting schooner, USS Enterprise, he wrapped himself in the ship’s anchor chain and jumped overboard. Apparently shouting something like, Gasparilla dies by his own hand, not the enemy’s.

According to legend, before his death, the successful pirate buried somewhere along the gulf coast.

Although colorful, there is no proof that pirate named “Gaspar” ever existed. Nonetheless, it does make for a reason to create a parade and party. Which is exactly what happened in 1904 right here in Tampa!

In May of 1904 a couple enterprising people combined the legend of Jose Gaspar, pirates and added a little flair borrowed from Mardi Gras in New Orleans to give the boring May Day parade a little “umph”. Early invasions were done on horseback and by early automobiles.

The spring of 1913 saw the first time the parade was a stand-alone event and has been held every year since except during WW1 and WW2.

The first Krewe was Ye Mystic Krewe of Gasparilla formed in 1904, which organizes the Parade of Pirates. It is composed of civic leaders and businessmen from Tampa. Which means that it is male only.

In 1966, some disgruntled spouses of the YMKG formed their own Krewe, the Krewe of Venus. The Krewe of Venus, which is the krewe Paula and are members of, is the first co-ed krewe. The krewe of Venus was modeled after the New Orleans Krewe of Venus and has colorful history.

Royal Court KOV 2020 Gasparilla

Venus is also the krewe who started the bead throwing, a practice that has been adopted by all the krewes. Both throwing and catching beads is the reason most people attend.

If you have ever thought about joining a Krewe, let me know. We would be happy to get you some information about the Krewes in Tampa. There are Krewes out there for just about all lifestyles.

Here are some links that we thought interesting.

Krewe of Venus:

Krewe of Pandora:

Krewe of Shamrock:

Krewe of Mambi:

The Interkrewe Council list of Krewes:

Other Events Around Gasparilla

Gasparilla Distance Classic:

Gasparilla Festival of Arts:

Gasparilla Music Festival:

Gasparilla Film Festival:

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