The 109th Gasparilla Pirate Festival is coming up this weekend, and Don Barnes, executive officer for Ye Mystic Krewe of Gasparilla, is ready.
In a warehouse in downtown Tampa, pirate floats and convertibles for dignitaries are just waiting to saunter down the parade route for an expected audience of more than 200,000 people.
“We’ve been doing this for 109 years, and our goal is to make sure it goes on for another 109 years,” said Barnes, who spends the whole year planning for the annual event.
The way to reach that goal is to focus on safety.
“We’ve really been pushing for what we call ‘Responsibility Matters,’ ” he said.
“Responsibility Matters” is an educational campaign that aims to stop underage drinking. It’s a concerted effort that the Tampa Police Department is serious about. At a press conference last week, Tampa officials said a “zero tolerance” policy will be in full effect during the festivities.
“We want everybody to go home with a neck full of beads and not handcuffs,” said Police Chief Jane Castor during the conference.
To help with safety, Gasparilla organizers will be providing wristbands to everyone who is inside the parade route, which is a new measure this year.
“We want to make sure that the people that are on the parade route are supposed to be there,” Barnes said.
The Gasparilla Pirate Festival and parade kicks off at 2 p.m. on Saturday, Jan. 26, along Bayshore Boulevard in south Tampa. The parade will start at Bayshore Boulevard at Bay-to-Bay Boulevard.
The free annual celebration features fireworks, floats and food.
Here are some things to keep in mind from the Gasparilla Pirate Fest’s website:
- Beer and other liquor can be purchased along the parade route, which is a wet zone. Only cash is accepted, and IDs must be shown. Proceeds go to Tampa Bay charities.
- Mobile ATMs are available along the route.
- While food and drinks are on sale along the parade route, glass containers are not permitted.
- Bicycles are allowed along the route, but bikers can’t ride them once inside event closure zones. Bikes must be walked along the route.
For more information, call 813-251-8844.
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