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Tuesday, May 22, 2018
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Gasparilla was already a spectacle 100 years ago

Inaugurated in 1904, many of the popular features of Gasparilla, particularly Ye Mystic Krewe of Gasparilla’s invasion by boat followed by a grand parade, were well established by 1914. Though there was a parade of schoolchildren, with close to 3,000 participating, some more modern aspects, such as the Gasparilla Children’s Parade and the proliferation of other krewes, had yet to occur.

Modernization, however, was certainly a theme of the 1914 parade. The dedication of the new Lafayette Street Bridge, today’s Kennedy Boulevard Bridge, opened the Gasparilla festivities on that Saturday, Feb. 21. The ceremony was interrupted when two members of Ye Mystic Krewe rode up on horseback to deliver a message to Tampa Mayor D. B. McKay demanding the surrender of the city. The message was reprinted in that Sunday’s Tampa Tribune, declaring that the invasion was set for the following day. During most of Gasparilla’s history, the invasion and parade occurred on a Monday, and businesses and schools closed for the occasion.

Other weekend events included a “human chess game” at Plant Park, a large street dance downtown and a “Pageant of Hernando de Soto” staged by the Centro Español. As planned, the invasion came by ship on Monday afternoon and Jose Gaspar and his pirate band easily captured the city. The parade that followed was billed as the largest ever and included four floats and 100 pirates from Ye Mystic Krewe, a dozen floats from the Carnival Association, and numerous civic and commercial floats — all led by members of the military and local police.

King Gasparilla VII Tom Lykes and Queen Ruth Trice were supposed to ride on the Royal Float, but Lykes preferred to ride a horse — which was still a fairly common practice for these early Gasparilla parades.

This year, because of a few missed parades over the years, the 100th king and queen of Gasparilla, Philip Carroll and Colleen Pizzo, will grace the royal float. Unless King Carroll decides to reenact Lykes’ ride, that is.

Rodney Kite-Powell is the Saunders Foundation Curator of History at the Tampa Bay History Center. He welcomes your comments and questions and can be reached via email at [email protected] historycenter.org or by phone at (813) 228-0097.

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