Gasparilla–A Tampa Tradition: Getting Ready to Celebrate with Kids!

Today we bring you ways to get ready for Gasparilla!

Gasparilla History
Gasparilla Pirate Fest Info
Pirate Books
How to Talk Like a Pirate
Getting Your Costume Ready
The Big Day

Gasparilla History

Gasparilla, a Tampa celebration held every January, brings the city together with the lure of beads, boats, and a parade of pirates. The tradition dates back 110 years, to 1904, when Tampa’s social and civic leaders planning their city-wide May festival, decided to adopt as their mascot the legendary pirate, Jose Gaspar, “last of the Buccaneers” who supposedly left an untold fortune in buried treasure somewhere along the Florida coast. Forty members of a secret group brought the first “Ye Mystic Krewe of Gasparilla” to Tampa by surprising the city with a mock pirate attack. Masked and fully-costumed, the first krewe arrived on horseback and “captured the city” during the Festival Parade.

Since that first invasion, with the exception of only ten years, Tampa has upheld this tradition. Today, over 700 men make up Ye Mystic Krewe who “invade” the waterways of Tampa on the world’s only fully-rigged pirate ship to be built in modern times.  Along with the Jose Gasparilla (as the ship is named), hundreds of other boats join in this invasion up the channel between Davis Islands and Harbour Island.

Gasparilla Pirate Fest Info

The Gasparilla Children’s Parade will again take over the heart of Tampa on Saturday, January 18 with the parade beginning at 3:30 pm. 

The parade begins at Bay to Bay Boulevard and Bayshore Boulevard.. The parade ends at Watrous and Orleans. It is FREE to the public.

Yo-ho-ho! Get ready to celebrate Tampa-style! To get your family in the Gasparilla spirit this week, check out the ideas below!

Pirate Books for Kids

Pirates Don’t Change Diapers and How I Became a Pirate -(both by Melinda Long and David Shannon)

Talk Like a Pirate

Although Talk Like a Pirate day is “officially” on September 19, what better way to get into the spirit of Jose Gaspar than to throw around your favorite pirate speak?
Here are just a few to get you and your little lads and lasses started:

  • Ahoy! – Hello
  • Aye! or Aye! Aye!- Yes
  • Matey – Shipmate or friend
  • Ye – Use this instead of “you”
  • Me hearties – My friends
  • Lass – Woman or girl
  • Lad – Young man
  • Scallywag – Someone you don’t trust
  • Buccaneer – Another name for a pirate
  • Blimey! – Something to say when frustrated
  • Shiver me timbers! – Something to say when you are surprised
  • Yo-ho-ho! – Something to say when happy
  • Aft – Back of the ship
  • Bilge – Bottom of the ship
  • Fore – Front of the ship
  • Port – Left side of the ship
  • Starboard – Right side of the ship
  • Booty – Treasure
  • Doubloons – Gold coins or money
  • Colors – Flag
  • Jolly Roger – Flag of a pirate ship
  • Shanty – A pirate song
  • Cutlass – A pirate’s sword
  • Marooned – Getting stuck on a deserted island
  • Walk the plank – Forced to walk off a plank of the ship into the water

Getting Your Costume Ready

There are lots of places you can buy a pirate costume, but making a pirate costume can be a great way to get into the Gasparilla spirit!
What you need for an easy costume:

  • a white or horizontal striped t-shirt
  • black sweatpants
  • scissors
  • black eyeliner
  • eye patch (see directions below)
  • pirate hat (see printable below) or bandana
  • beads
  • scarf/long piece of fabric

1. Cut off the neck of the t-shirt to give it a worn look. Cut the bottom of a shirt into fringe or into a jagged edge.

2. Cut the bottom of the sweatpants’ legs about calf length. Again, jagged edges provide a worn “been at sea” look.

3. Use the black eyeliner to make a “beard” and/or “scars.”

4. Tie scarf/long piece of fabric around the waist.

5. Accessorize the outfit with an eye patch, beads, and bandana or pirate hat.

Note: Although you may be tempted to dress your little ones in cute pirate boots, do yourself a favor and stick to comfortable walking shoes. This is usually a long day and you may wind up walking quite a bit from parking and trying to find the perfect vantage point to watch the invasion and/or parade. Sunscreen is also highly recommended in among your pirate treasures!

Click here for a free pirate hat printable! Print on cardstock and use yarn, elastic, or tape to attach the sides together.

Check out this video on how to make an easy eye patch!

The Big Day

You will want to have plenty of water or juice along to keep your pirates hydrated. Here are a few suggestions for some pirate-themed snacks to bring along for your adventures:

Goldfish-You always need the “catch of the day”!

goldfishPirate’s Booty-Does it get any better than this?

pirate bootyChips Ahoy! Cookies (Get it? Ahoy?)

chipsahoyFresh Fruit– Bonus points if you get the little appetizer swords to spear them with!


Check here for some more Gasparilla tips!

Have fun planning your family Gasparilla Festival Day!

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