Every new year Tampanians cure their post-holiday slump with thoughts of pirate-themed revelry and cheap plastic beads. Gasparilla is our version of Mardi Gras (the closest comparison). Floats are decorated for months in anticipation of the three-hour parade that streams down Bayshore Boulevard and into Downtown Tampa. Pirates, led by the spirit (ghost?) of Jose Gaspar invade Tampa and take the keys to the city. Pillaging, partying, and general raucous fun invade every corner of South Tampa and Hyde Park. Anyone who lives in the area is advised to vacate for the weekend, throw a party, or expect friends and friends of friends to stop by in a constant stream to use the restroom and refill their beers.
This year my friend Patrick threw a Gasparilla brunch at his apartment in the Harbor House, a landmark building at the corner of Howard Avenue and Bayshore. Drinking began promptly at 10am, followed by hearty breakfast foods, and eventually a pub-crawl-esque walk to various parties along the parade route.Â I hit my energy and drinking limit around 4 and had to crash.
As a kid I attended Gasparilla under the supervision of my parents and their friends…often spending time at a house on Bayshore with paid security for the day – so food, bathroom, and personal space were readily available just past the orange tape. Partaking as an adult requires more prior planning, self-control, and the threat of arrest if you get out of line in any form.
Like with any event it’s easy to develop expectations that aren’t realistic. You want to see a certain person, you want to project a certain side of yourself. You want to have fun and keep the party going until you pass out. You don’t know who you’ll see (good or bad), don’t know where you’ll end up. And in some cases you can’t remember later what happened to you unexpectedly – it is all a haze.Â Mixing alcohol and the unpredictable nature of Gasparilla is just what makes it so interesting.
Someday I will host the destination party and not leave my house (or friend’s house) at all – just watch the action from a distance. Just the way I like most things in life.