Gasparilla 2015 Pirates Parade

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Gasparilla Preview: Gasparilla Children’s Parade and Pirates Parade.  Tampa Police estimate several hundred thousand people to attend the Pirates Parade on Jan. 31st, Saturday. For parking information and more, go to http:// www.tampagov.net.

by Carol Lim

Updated: January 30, 8:22 a.m. ET

After a successful Children’s Parade last weekend, the Invasion and Parade of Pirates begins on Saturday, January 31st.  This parade is geared more for the adults and students.  Small children, if you wish to take them, should be accompanied by their parents or a responsible adult to this parade. Alcohol is allowed in restricted areas, but no coolers. So, here’s hoping you have a safe, enjoyable time and catch beads, if you’ve never attended this event. If you don’t want to brave the crowds along  Bayshore Boulevard and in downtown Tampa, WFLA-TV will broadcast the parade live on Saturday afternoon. Thousands of beads will fly through the air from the Gasparilla floats, pirate krewes, costumed pirates, dignitaries and celebrities walking along the parade route.

The Invasion of Pirates and Flotilla into Seddon Channel also is a spectacular site before the parade. The pirates on the Jose Gasparilla ship dock at the Tampa Convention Center where Mayor Buckhorn hands over the city keys to the pirates.

For this Saturday’s parade and pirate invasion, Tampa Police Chief Jane Castor estimated 1,500 officers will be present with help from Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office deputies and the Florida Marine Patrol as the costumed pirates come ashore  and parade down Bayshore Boulevard into downtown Tampa.  Some officers will be on bicycles, too.

It’s also Gasparilla’s 100th anniversary and the last one for retiring Chief Castor. Expect to see a higher presence and increased security at this parade and the evening events on Saturday. The Tampa Police Department also reminds all celebrating pirates to report suspicious activity, too.

In 2012, there were 342 arrests during Gasparilla. Since then, Tampa Police, Hillsborough County Schools and Gasparilla partner businesses have been trying to reign in the bad behavior associated with Gasparilla. Chief Castor said the “zero tolerance” policy is in effect for the Gasparilla parades and events. Tampa Police say there will be restricted areas where alcohol is allowed. Instead of giving individuals an arrest record, police now cite offenders and focus on educating the public with visits to schools, the military and other groups about alcohol use.

“They can have an open container (of alcohol) along the parade route. That’s the only place they can have an open container. They cannot in the neighborhoods,” said Chief Castor at a Gasparilla news conference recently.

Bay Shore neighborhood residents and their yards take the brunt of the bad behavior every year. “They are very appreciative that things have been cleaned up,” said Chief Castor. “We’ve done a very good job of that education. As I said, because the arrests have decreased, but also the open container citations have decreased dramatically and the atmosphere around the Gasparilla parades and events has improved dramatically as well,” said Chief Castor.

“This is not just about Gasparilla. It’s about behavior in large groups in a city that is really growing these events. We want our students, our students’ parents to understand that when they’re out working and when they’re out with their friends, playing, that they know what is acceptable behavior,” said Mary Ellen Elia,  Hillsborough County Schools Superintendent at the news conference before her departure from the school system recently.

“For the Tampa Police Department, it would be great for us to have a Gasparilla parade where there are no arrests at all,” said Chief Castor. Chief Castor also thanked everyone and Gasparilla partners for making Gasparilla the signature event for the Tampa area.

On Saturday, Ye Mystic Krewe’s Gasparilla Parade of the Pirates will be broadcast on WFLA-TV, one of the sponsors, from 2 p.m. – approximately 5:30 p.m.

South Tampa Neighborhood “No Parking” signs and towing zones will be in effect on Friday, January 30th, 2015 through Saturday, January 31st.  Street closures begin on Friday, January 30th at 10 p.m.  For a complete list of street closures, go to http://www.tampagov.net.

Admission to these parades and events are free.  For your swashbuckling fun, bring at least $30 cash for event parking lots, HART trolleys or buses, food and souvenirs.

For parade parking this Saturday, City of Tampa’s Fort Brooke Garage is a $10 flat rate and will open at 7 a.m. The Jackson Street parking lot’s hourly rate is $1.60/hr, with a $9.50 daily maximum rate.  It will open at 7 a.m.

Here are some more parking rates: Poe Garage: $1.20 hourly, $7 maximum and opens at 6 a.m. At 10:30 a.m., the garage will switch to a $4 flat rate for the Straz matinee. Royal Regional Lot – $10 flat rate and will open at 7 a.m. Tampa Convention Center Garage – $10 flat rate and will open at 7 a.m. Twiggs Street Garage – hourly rates of $1.20/hr, $7 daily maximum and will open at 6 a.m. Centro Ybor and Palm Avenue Garages –Open at 6 a.m. at the standard hourly rate. HART park and ride is available from both locations.  HART also will have extra streetcar, bus and trolly services during this special event.  Call 813-254-4278 or visit http://www.goHART.org

Here are some safety tips for protect you from real pirates and thieves:

Beware of who is around you. Credit/debit card fraud also happens during Gasparilla and peaks around holidays and special events, including SuperBowl, according to Bank of America and credit card fraud victims. Hide valuables in parked vehicles or don’t bring them with you, lock your cars and carry little cash when attending these events.

Sources: Tampa Police YouTube Channel, Tampa Tribune, http://www.gasparillapiratefest.com, http://www.tampagov.net

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