The story goes that Jose Gaspar, the swashbuckling pirate for whom Tampa’s entire springtime of fun is named, was a gentlemanly sort of criminal. Sure he may have terrorized the seas, but rumor has it that he was courtly, refined and well-educated. So Gaspar would probably approve of the idea of having a separate celebration for the younger set of Tampa Bay, one without alcohol and adult shenanigans. Hence, the creation of the Children’s event at Gasparilla.
The McDonald’s Children’s Gasparilla Extravaganza has been an annual Tampa tradition since 1947. It’s traditionally held on the weekend prior to the pirate’s invasion, and while it’s a family-friendly affair, there’s plenty of fun to go around for all ages.
What: An annual Tampa tradition since 1947, it features up to 100 floats, krewes, marching bands, schools and beads.
When: From 3:30-6 p.m., Jan. 20, 2018.
Where: The parade starts at the corner of Bay to Bay and Bayshore Boulevard, heads north on Bayshore and ends at Edison Avenue.
How much: The event is FREE to attend, but you can upgrade your seats for a charge. Bleacher seating starts at $38, but advanced ticket pricing ends Jan. 13, and tickets go up by $5 on the day of. Visit gasparillatreasures.com to see bleacher deals and combos, such as First Mate seating in the front row chair seating for $50, or entrance to the hospitality tent (a private area including a buffet, snacks and bleacher seating) which starts at $85.
How to Watch: The best way of course, is in person! If you can’t make it, it will be broadcast live on Fox 13 and livestreamed on myfoxtampabay.com.
For many residents, this is an annual tradition for which they prepare in advance, reserving bleacher spaces, staking out spots for picnics and arriving early enough to park and ride the trolley. The day unspools with a series of entertainments. There’s a bicycle rodeo organized by Tampa police and an exciting demonstration or air dare-devilry by the United States Special Operations Command. There are vendors selling everything from (annoying) squeaky horns and pirate swag aplenty—get ready to lumber home with a bagful of plastic swords, bandanas, eyepatches and perhaps even a parrot. There’s even a special time set aside for the tiniest pirates to strut their stuff in the Preschooler’s Stroll.
The highlight is the actual Children’s Parade, which has in the past drawn up to 100 floats, krewes, marching bands and schools. You’ll see everything from your favorite sports teams and radio stations to some of the oldest and most established krewes of Tampa Bay in all their costumed glory. Marching bands, youth sports teams, dance squads and community organizations all show up to march down beautiful Bayshore Boulevard and throw out beads, toys and even t-shirts! And as a perfect finale to the day, watch a “pira-technic” fight to the end between the pirates out in the Bay as the skies light up over South Tampa in one of the finest fireworks displays of the year.
Here’s everything you need to plan the perfect day at the Children’s Gasparilla Extravaganza.
Schedule of events:
11 a.m. Vendors are open for business!
11a.m.-1 p.m | Bicycle and Pedestrian Safety Rodeo Learn all about bike safety from Tampa Police, navigate the bike course and get a free helmet while supplies last. On the corner of Bayshore Boulevard and South Rome Avenue. Read: Get the party started early at the Bicycle Rodeo!
1:30-2:45 p.m | Preschoolers Stroll sponsored by Lowry Park Zoo Come see Tampa’s tiniest pirates strut their stuff. Bayshore Boulevard and South Howard Avenue. Read: Preschooler’s Stroll: Pint Sized Pirates Take on Bayshore!
2:45-3:15 p.m. | Gasparilla Air Invasion and SOCOM Day Jump A precision parachute jump.
3:30-6 p.m. | Children’s Parade The fun steps off at Bayshore and Bay to Bay!
6:15-6:30 p.m. | Gasparilla Air Invasion and SOCOM Night Jump A precision parachute jump.
7:00-7:30 p.m. | Piratechnic Extravaganza A fireworks show you don’t want to miss!
Plan to arrive early to enjoy these ARRRG-some family-friendly events we highly recommend attending:
Bicycle and Pedestrian Safety Rodeo
What: You may have been riding a bicycle all your life, but are you really doing it the right away? A few Tampa organizations have made it their mission to ensure that not only are kids having fun on their wheels, they are being as safe as can be. Come test your skills at the bicycle rodeo, organized by the Tampa Police Department, onbikes, FDOT Tampa and EventFest, Inc. Children will be fitted with free, brand new helmets that they can take home (while supplies last). There’s also a fun course that the kids can use the on-site rodeo’s bicycles to navigate that teaches safe skills, such as signaling, stopping and maintaining a single lane.
When: 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., Saturday, Jan. 20.
Where: Bayshore Boulevard and South Rome Avenue
Gasparilla Preschooler’s Stroll presented by Lowry Park Zoo.
What: Possibly the most adorable event in the world, the preschoolers stroll (launched in 2005) is an opportunity for the under-5 crowd to show their buccaneer spirit. Participants must be in pirate themed attire and accompanied by adult. While no motorized vehicles are allowed, the pint-sized pirates are welcome to ride in a decorated wagon, stroller, tricycle or bicycle.
When: 1:30 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 20
Where: A half-mile on Bayshore Boulevard from Howard to Rome.
IMPORTANT: There is a mandatory preregistration for this event. Visit http://gasparillapiratefest.com/childrens-fest/preschoolers-stroll/ to download an application. No walkups allowed on the day of, so prevent tearful outbursts and plan ahead! Also, if you are purchasing your tickets or bleachers seats with a view to watching this event, please make sure you choose a spot between Howard and Rome! Not all bleacher seating will allow you to view this portion of the stroll.