Gasparilla is named for the infamous Spanish pirate, Jose Gaspar. He and his band of pirates terrorized the Western Gulf Coast during the late 18th and early 19th century.
It’s been said that he captured over 400 ships and buried his enormous treasure on the island he called home, Gasparilla Island, located off the coasts of Lee and Charlotte counties.
When Gaspar was ready to retire, he and his crew decided to seize one more ship. What Gaspar thought was a British trading ship, was really a U.S. Navy pirate hunting ship in disguise. After Gaspar’s ship took on heavy cannon fire from the the U.S. ship, and began to sink, Gaspar wasn’t going to be taken alive. He wrapped the anchor’s chain around his waist, jumped into the ocean and was never seen again, and neither was his treasure.
As the story of Gaspar, (Gasparilla) permeated through the city of Tampa, in 1904, city leaders decided to declare a city-wide celebration in the win of Good over Evil.
Gasparilla is celebrated annually with a “pirate attack” on Tampa Bay by the world’s only remaining fully-functioning pirate ship, the José Gasparilla. This ship carries 750 “pirates” into Tampa Bay, firing its cannons. This parade, the 3rd largest in the US, takes the pirates into the streets of Tampa Bay for a massive parade.
Gasparilla offers a multitude of events from January-March for pirates of all ages. The Children’s Parade kicks off January 19th. Click here to go directly to Gasparilla’s site for all the event listings: