Pirate Festival sails into Tampa

January 9, 2014 by  

Whether or not the Spanish pirate named Jose Gaspar, the festival held in his name is quite real and is co-hosted by Ye Mystic Krewe of Gasparilla and the City of Tampa this month .

Among the events are a boat parade of pirate ships and free concerts. Food and souvenirs will be available too.

According to local legend, Gaspar, who had the nickname ‘Gasparilla’, raided Florida’s west coast late in the 1700s. His name comes down to Floridians today in the form of the Gasparilla Pirate Festival that’s held in Tampa, but it’s possible the pirate never actually existed.

The legend is that Jose Gomez, an old man who resided in Boca Grande, used to amuse other locals with wild stories about his adventures when he was young. He said he was in the Spanish navy in the late 1700s, but gave up the sea when he captured the daughter of a rich man, whom he held to ransom. His scheme succeeded, and led him to a career of piracy.

Although the story is colorful, it might be fiction. The first time Jose Gomez shows up anywhere is in the 20th Century, in a brochure advertising the Boca Grande Hotel. Some people believe the hotel’s developer came up with the story to make the area more interesting.

The festival is always slated for the last Saturday in January (which this year is January 25), from 10:00 am to 10:00 pm, with free admission. Festival organizers could work with a banner printing company to create flags appropriate to a pirate-themed event.