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More Gasparilla events consider changes as COVID-19 cases increase

Hillsborough County

TAMPA (WFLA) – Ye Mystic Krewe of Gasparilla announced on Monday they will be moving the Gasparilla Children’s Parade and the Gasparilla Parade of Pirates to April.

The event, normally held in January, is being moved out of concern as the number of positive cases of COVID-19 increases in the Tampa Bay area. However, the parades are not the only events being affected due to the pandemic.

Gasparilla began in 1904 as a way to attract tourists to Tampa Bay. Now the Gasparilla Festival of the Arts and the Gasparilla Distance Classic help fulfill that original intent with organizers of those events considering how to move forward with their plans amid the pandemic.

“We are keenly aware of how the COVID-19 positivity rates have increased over the last month and with that awareness, we are taking a look at options,” Gasparilla Distance Classic Race Director Susan Harmeling said.

Harmeling says several options are still on the table after talking with health officials and the city.

“With this particular decision, we would never put any of our runners, our volunteers, our staff, we would never make a decision that would put anyone in harm’s way,” said Harmeling.

The Distance Classic is currently scheduled for Feb. 20th and 21st.

The Gasparilla Festival of The Arts has grown to one of the largest events of its kind in the state. St. Petersburg artist Carrie Kilgore says the event is very helpful to her business.

“It’s super important. I mean it’s one of the biggest shows in Florida and the Tampa Bay area. It gives us a chance to show our work, sell our work, get out there connect with our audience,” said Kilgore who specializes in oil portraits.

Right now, event organizers are planning to have a in-person event, with some changes.

“What it’s looking like now is we will be fencing off Julian B Lane Park and we will do some sort of free ticketed entry that’s timed so we can help control crowds,” said John Scheffel the President of the Festival of the arts.

Scheffel says moving the event to another time of the year would be difficult because of conflicts with other arts festivals, warm weather, and hurricanes. Instead, his group of volunteer organizers have been exploring options to put on the safest event possible in the current environment.

“In addition to talking with local officials, we’ve also been talking to other arts festivals and other big events and festivals that are happening, just so that we try to, we’re learning from each other,” said Scheffel.


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