TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – A South Tampa woman is helping other pirates spice up their homes along Bayshore Boulevard and beyond before Gasparilla gets underway.
Cherie Ward has been making customized Gasparilla wreaths for 10 years, getting started as a hobby with a friend to initially make them as Christmas presents.
Now, she takes orders throughout the year for these extravagant pieces for others to decorate for the season.
The process is year-round, but Ward said it really amps up in October when she begins to collect the knick-knacks that adorn the wreaths, like swords, skulls and other things that can usually be found around Halloween.
She and her husband begin preliminary work around that time as well, painting wreaths and treasure chests and other little work that needs to be done.
“Generally I get a lot of orders right after Christmas or just before Christmas… I’ll get orders all the way into next week,” Ward said.
She said most wreaths take her around three hours to make, but did admit it might be more, as she’s a self-described perfectionist and likes to have a bit of creative freedom with her wreaths.
“I love that. Just tell me the colors and what you don’t like, because some people don’t like the coconut pirate heads or they don’t like the skulls,” she said. “So just tell me what you don’t like and I love to just create it. The hard ones are when they’re just very specific, this is exactly what they want, that I find sometimes, I’m worried they’re not going to be pleased with how it comes out.”
Prices range from $165 to $200, but much larger wreaths with more adornments can creep into the mid-$200s. Ward said when a customer contacts her, they can also tell her the amount they are willing to spend.
Ward said her biggest, most elaborate order was the first year she began selling her wreath when a family on Bayshore hired her to make a giant wreath, that she said barely fit in the back of her SUV.
“It was everything but the kitchen sink. We even brought it back to the house because they wanted more stuff on it. And I remember taking the skull out of my kids’ fish tank, cleaning it up and putting it on the wreath and it looked great. It had guns, it had swords, it had everything on this wreath,” she said.
Her attention to detail and creativity is something she said her family teases her about.
“My kids are like, ‘oh my gosh, my mom will sell it. If it’s not nailed down, it may end up on a wreath!’” she said.
As of Friday before the Gasparilla Children’s Parade, Ward is still taking orders for wreaths to be ready in time for the pirate invasion and parade set for Jan. 29. She said her last day to work on wreaths will be Thursday.
Ward said the end of the parade is not the end for Gasparilla.
“Honestly, even after Gasparilla, the season goes on. You don’t have to take your wreath down the day after Gasparilla,” she said. “And that’s what I think is great about this holiday is everyone’s kind of got the Christmas blues, taking down your Christmas stuff, and pull out the Gasparilla wreath and move on to this next holiday, and it’s an easy holiday and it’s fun. And you can keep it up until after the race if you want to!”
Wreath orders can be picked up at Ward’s home and she does deliver to the South Tampa area.