Gasparilla is a Tampa tradition that dates back to 1904. Each year the pirates of Ye Mystic Krewe of Gasparilla invade the city, to the delight of thousands who come to see the parade of pirates.
This year, Ye Mystic Krewe of Gasparilla is led by their Captain, Dr. James Von Thron.
Dr. Von Thron is a well know physician in Tampa, but behind the cool, calm professional is the heart of a pirate, who says he got his first taste of Gasparilla in college. "I originally had heard about it when I was in college, because I had some college friends who would come back to this parade."
He then got his first real taste of Gasparilla when he came to Tampa General Hospital for part of his medical training. Dr. Von Thron says after working a long overnight shift, he wandered into the party. "I looked out and saw this ship coming down the channel and I decided to stay and I don't know what time I got home, but I had a great time despite the fact I had been up all night. So, that's my real first experience is just walking out and falling in to it," says Dr. Von Thron.
In 1985, he joined Ye Mystic Krewe of Gasparilla. It was something his wife knew a great deal about. WFLA TV profiled Ann Von Thron several years ago, when she shared film with the TV station taken by her grandfather. Her grandfather, A.L. Questa was a member of Ye Mystic Krewe in the 1940's. The color film shows beautiful floats, servicemen who have just returned from World War II and a Tampa skyline that is much different that the skyline of today.
Dr. Von Thron says, "My wife's grandfather was actually chairman of the parade for many years, as what I have done over the last five or six years and apparently, I never met him, but apparently he would film the parade so he could critique it and improve it the next year."
As parade chairman, Dr. Von Thron has worked on the parade route to ensure that the pirates and spectators enjoy an safe and fun event.
This year, he serves as Captain. "It's an honor, it's a responsibility, it's a lot of fun and fortunately there have been a lot of Captains and a lot of people who have gone before me that have set a very good standard."
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