Improved Gasparilla kid's parade returns Saturday
Jose Gaspar's deep, disembodied voice bellowed last year off the pirate ship moored in Hillsborough Bay. "I am here to remind the citizens of my power," Tampa's beloved make-believe buccaneer said. "It is time for me to rise up and take revenge." Only problem was, as scary as the dreaded pirate sounded and looked to some landlubbers, others in the crowd were less than impressed. They said the high-tech, multimedia presentation was hard to see and difficult at times to hear. Things will sound and look better this year — particularly for those standing near Bayshore Boulevard and Howard Avenue, Gasparilla organizers say.The event aboard Gaspar's ship, the Jose Gasparilla, fills a gap between the end of the Saturday's children's parade and the 7 p.m. fireworks show. Gaspar will repeat his speech again from the ship every 30 minutes from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday, Monday and Tuesday. This year, the ship has an improved lighting system that will make Gaspar and the event brighter, said Don Barnes, Ye Mystic Krewe of Gasparilla's executive director. Also, speakers lining Bayshore from Saturday through Tuesday evenings will allow for "good, crisp, clean sounds" from the boat, Barnes said. The pirate will be impressive but not terrifying, he said. "We just want the city of Tampa to know that if the mayor doesn't surrender the key … he and the city should prepare to meet their doom," Barnes said. The children's event comes a week before the annual Gasparilla Invasion, Parade of Pirates and Pirate Fest, which will take place Jan. 26 along Bayshore and downtown. According to legend, Gaspar was a swashbuckling thief who pillaged the state's west coast in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. In 1904, Louise Frances Dodge, society editor of The Tampa Tribune, used the legend as inspiration for the first Gasparilla. Ye Mystic Krewe of Gasparilla formed and invaded, in full costume, with a parade downtown. The tradition has commenced nearly every year since. Saturday's festivities start at 11 a.m. with the popular Gasparilla Children's Extravaganza, which includes a bike safety rodeo, an air invasion by the U.S. Special Ops parachute jump team (3 p.m.) and the Children's Parade (3:30 p.m.), where thousands of children will clamor for beads and trinkets along Bayshore. For the first time, the children's parade will be televised live. The parade and fireworks display will be televised on Fox 13, Barnes said. "I think by it being on television, it's going to introduce the event to an entirely new audience," said Darrell Stefany, president of EventFest, the group that helps put on the pirate invasion.
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