TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — Most people know that Gasparilla is a fun-filled day when we remember the pirates invading Tampa Bay. For more than 100 years, Tampa Bay has faced an invasion of freebooters, marauders, and buccaneers. 

The tale of pirate captain José Gaspar who, according to the stories, ravaged the west coast of Spanish Florida for 40 years is the inspiration for a bombastic plundering that continues from 1905 to present day Tampa.

But here are some interesting facts you might not have known about one of Tampa Bay’s most iconic events!

No. 1

Gasparilla the festival wasn’t created by scurvy swashbucklers, but rather by the society editor of the Tampa Tribune, in partnership with civic and social leaders in the Bay area.

No. 2

“Ye Mystic Krewe of Gasparilla” was born in 1904, and carried out a mock pirate invasion of Tampa. The event was so popular that citizens clamored to make it a yearly occurrence.


The very first Krewe of Gasparilla didn’t arrive by ship to capture Tampa. Instead, they arrived on horseback. The first sea invasion was in 1911.


Can you imagine Gasparilla happening on a MONDAY? Until 1988, the Gasparilla Pirate Festival was celebrated on the first Monday in February. 1988 was the year it was moved to Saturday. In 2002, it was moved to the last Saturday in January.


The pirate upon whose alleged exploits the festival is based may not have been real. No historical evidence of Jose Gaspar appears before the 20th century.


Since the first invasion in 1904, there have only been 11 years when Gasparilla was not celebrated, including in 2021 because of COVID fears.


The Jose Gasparilla pirate ship was commissioned in 1954. According to the Gasparilla Pirate Fest website, it is the only fully-rigged pirate ship to be built in modern times. Arrrggghhh!


WFLA News Channel 8 has shown the parade LIVE on television since 1955! We’ll bring you the parade live this year too, ye landlubbers!

We hope you all have a fun and safe Gasparilla celebration!