BRANDON – Rain poured, but it didn't dampen the spirit at the second annual Brandon Pirate Krewe Invasion, where pirate-clad locals joined en masse to kick off this year's parade season on the eve of the Gasparilla Pirate Festival in Tampa.
At the event, hosted by the Brandon-based Krewe of Sea SaveYours, attendees, vendors and krewe sponsors gathered Jan. 11 at The Rack in Brandon to showcase their costumes, floats, causes and wares.
Chief among them was Bill Collins — also known as Captain Billy Black Toes — who had a hand in the krewe's founding two years ago, committed to the mission of helping “to inform the public of boating and trailer regulations, introduce children to the enjoyment of water sports with an emphasis on safety and precautions, while increasing awareness of our footprint upon our coastal environment.”
It took four months to build the krewe's float that Collins said he designed, adding that it was built on a recycled mobile home trailer and fashioned out of recycled lumber and recycled steel.
“We're pulled by a giant zeppelin above us and we have four big jet motors and a propeller on the back,” he added. “Yes, we're a flying pirate ship.”
Nearby was the only other float in view at the rain-soaked Brandon Pirate Krewe Invasion, the float manned by the Krewe of Seven Celtic Nations. The krewe's mission is “to promote camaraderie amongst like-minded individuals with a common goal of helping the less fortunate, while creating opportunities to network.”
It is the first full year for the krewe founded in 2013.
“We were a part of a different krewe and wanted to take off in a different direction,” said krewe founder Mark Sullivan. “We're a bunch of good friends getting together to have a good time and make some new friends along the way.”
Pirate-clad representatives from all area krewes were invited to celebrate at what Collins last year called a “night parade that's not moving.” The trip with Ye Mystic Krewe of Gasparilla, as it prepares “to invade the unsuspecting City of Tampa” and share its “rich plunder with all those who dare to join us,” is scheduled for Saturday, Jan. 25.
“Krewes can exist without Gasparilla but being in the parade is a big draw,” Collins said. “This is our second year participating in nine parades.”
That would be the Gasparilla Children's Parade and Piratechnic Extravaganza, the Gasparilla Parade of Pirates (Jan. 25) and the Knights of Sant'Yago Parade in Ybor City (Feb. 8). Also on the krewe's schedule are the Strawberry Festival parade in Plant City, the Veterans Day and Christmas parades in Pasco County, the St. Patrick's Day parade in Ybor City, the De Soto Grand Parade in Bradenton and the Chasco Fiesta Street Parade in New Port Richey.
Sullivan said his krewe participates in six parades and that members were happy to be on deck at the Brandon Gasparilla invasion. Collins said more krewes would have brought their floats had it not been for the foul weather.
“Gasparilla is South Tampa at its core,” Sullivan said. “But as time goes on we get krewes from Brandon, Pinellas County, Manatee County, people from Tallahassee and elsewhere. It's rapidly becoming more of a regional thing than just a Tampa thing.”
Billed as Tampa's “First and Only Official SteamPunk Pirate Krewe,” Collins said the Krewe of Sea SaveYours is a not-for-profit social organization built on the efforts of its 125 members.
Among them is Dave Stork who said he was one of about 14 members Collins drew together to launch the krewe.
“We wanted to be kind of unique,” Stork said. “We wanted people who enjoy life and want to have a good time and help with the different charities we support.”
As for its steampunk theme, Stork described it as “a cross between the 1890s and Buck Rogers.” It's all about “gears, hydraulics and steam.” As krewe member Ty Scott put it, steampunk is about “advanced technology with an industrial persuasion with a Victorian timeline.” A mix, if you will, “of the Wild West and Will Smith.”