Gasparilla 2020: A look at WFLA’s treasured history

Gasparilla

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – WFLA News Channel 8 has brought the Tampa Bay area live coverage of Gasparilla since the station’s humble beginnings.

WFLA signed on the air with live coverage of the Gasparilla Invasion and Parade of Pirates on Feb. 14, 1955, 10 years before News Channel 8 began broadcasting in color.

In that year, President Eisenhower was hospitalized for a heart attack, Albert Einstein died and Disneyland opened.

Gasparilla began in 1904 and there have only been 10 years it was not celebrated. WFLA has been a part of 65 of those celebrations.

Gasparilla informally began in 1904 when a society editor of the Tampa Tribune and a federal government employee in Tampa conspired to promote the city and its May Day celebration, according to Ye Mystic Krewe of Gasparilla history.

They held secret meetings that led to the 40 members forming YMKG.

The Krewe is inspired by legendary pirate Jose Gaspar, who terrorized the Gulf Coast in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. The legitimacy of his existence remains questionable.

Bayshore Blvd in 1953 (Burget Brothers via HCPLC)

Before his death, Gaspar was said to have left buried treasure somewhere along the coast.

The first Krewe, inspired by Gaspar, rented costumes from New Orleans and arrived in Tampa on horseback during the parade to “capture the city.”

Though the city has upheld the Gasparilla tradition, the event was moved from its original second Monday of February date to a Saturday in 1988.

This year, over 140 units, including more than 103 floats, five marching bands, and over 50 Krewes will take to the 4.5-mile parade route.

WFLA also has sponsored the Gasparilla Distance Classic for 35 years as of this year’s races.

Ye Mystic Krewe of Gasparilla in 1932 (Burget Brothers via HCPLC)

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