Saturday’s Gasparilla Parade of Pirates is a uniquely Tampa event, created by city leaders more than 100 years ago as a way to lure visitors. It worked. Some 300,000 people are expected to line Bayshore Boulevard as more than 150 floats, bands and various krewes toss beads and trinkets into the crowd.

It all started with a fictional pirate, Jose Gaspar. The festival was founded in 1904 by Ye Mystic Krewe of Gasparilla, a prominent bunch of Tampa citizens who to this day are still the organizers of the event where pirates “invade” the city. Pirate costumes will be worn by both the crowd and the krewes. The atmosphere will be loud with music, cannon fire and whooping revelers who will find alcohol stations all along the parade route.

The all-male, all-white founders of Gasparilla bear little resemblance to today’s roster of more than 60 krewes that now include Latin, female and Black krewes and other ethnic, cultural and historical themes.

Saturday’s schedule

Pirate invasion: From 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. the fully rigged pirate ship Jose Gasparilla (actually a barge dressed up as a pirate ship that is pulled by tug boats) will lead a dramatic flotilla of hundreds of private and police boats. The boats will emerge at the south end of Hillsborough Bay with cannons firing as the flotilla travels across the bay into Seddon Channel and docks at the Tampa Convention Center around 1 p.m. Then the mayor will surrender the key to the city.

Parade of Pirates: Elaborate floats and krewes will be showering the streets with beads and treasures. The parade will begin at Bay to Bay and Bayshore boulevards and end at Cass Street and Ashley Drive. It runs from 2 to 6 p.m.

Pirate Fest: This year brings an expanded Pirate Fest that will take place along the Riverwalk in downtown Tampa. The event will feature two stages with live entertainment pre- and post-parade in Curtis Hixon Park and MacDill Park. 9 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Parking: Streets around the parade route begin closing Friday night. City garages charge $5 to $20 per vehicle on parade day. Note that many garages tend to fill up by 10:30 a.m. The city of Tampa has released their 2023 Parking Bulletin, which lists the names and prices of local downtown garages. Go to You can also check out road closures and detours for the day at

Contact Sharon Kennedy Wynne at or 727-893-8595. Follow @SharonKWn.