The Impact of Gasparilla’s Cancellation

Gasparilla is cancelled for 2021 but luckily in the future it has promises of returning. Scheduled for January 22 of 2022, Gasparilla is presented by Chick-Fil-A.

Wikimedia Commons


Jerry Glaser

The Jose Gasparilla pirate ship, docked in downtown Tampa adjacent to the Tampa Convention Center, displays a replica of the Lombardi trophy in advance of Super Bowl LV, February 2, 2021. U.S. Customs and Border Protection Air are providing security in the waterways in Tampa, Fla. in advance of Super Bowl LV. CBP photo by Jerry Glaser

Liv Baker, Reporter

   The cancellation of the Gasparilla Day Parade comes as a disappointment to Tampa citizens who have been rooting for home teams as they excel in their seasons. For Buccaneers and Lightning fans, this annual festivity would’ve allowed sports fanatics to celebrate their successes. The recent cancellation comes as a shock to no one, as very little events in the past year have been excluded from the effects of the Coronavirus.

   Gasparilla has been a tradition in Tampa since 1904, when the parade first began to memorialize local Florida folklore while hoping to attract more May Day tourists with its Mardi Gras-inspired festivities. Since then, it has been a signature event for Tampanians who enjoy bead throwing, good food, pirate costumes and elaborate floats. 

    Many regular attendees are saddened by the recent news, “Gasparilla was the one place to have guaranteed fun, and we only got it once a year. It feels very fitting for the theme of this year to cancel an event very significant to so many citizens and sports fans, but I understand why they had to do it,” said Kayla Gonzalez, a senior who has been going to Gasparilla parades since she was younger.

   The parades usually begin with ‘pirate invasions,’ which draw parallels to the 19th century invasions of Jose Gaspar, a banished Spainard from the King’s Court. The authenticity of these tales is widely debated but are likely to be false, as Tampa History Director Robert Kite-Powell said that “there’s no record of Gaspar in any archive, he was probably a conglomeration of the true Florida and Caribbean Pirates.”

    Prior to the mock invasions and the building of the pirate ship in 1954, pirates would enter the parade on horseback. It is no doubt that the sailing of the ship through the Seddan Canal is the most impactful and memorable way to initialize the festivities. Pirates would also use real guns rather than the fake ones they use nowadays, which posed a safety hazard for guests and this practice was eventually reformed.

    COVID-19 joins the brief lists of reasons for Gasparilla to be canceled. Historically, the parades have been canceled due to world wars and even once for a lack of diversity in the parade.  The hosting organization, Ye Mystic Krewe, faced criticism for refusing to admit black members until 1991.  Joining this society would establish citizens in the local community and would aid their businesses. As of today, there still are only four of 800 members who are black, according to the TampaBayTimes.

    Tampa will likely experience a decrease in tourist revenue, which has already been impacted by the Coronavirus. The average combined revenue of all Tampa’s Gasparilla celebrations is $40 million, and these events grow in attendees and collect revenue each year.  However, with the revenue collected from hosting the 2021 Super Bowl it is unlikely that Tampa will take a significant financial hit.

   In addition to the day parade, recent cancellations have been made for the signature Gasparilla Music Festival, the Ybor Sant’ Yago Knight Parade and refunds are being offered for those who bought tickets to the Children’s Parade.

   As Gasparilla attracts 3000,000 at its main day parade alone, the decision of the local legislature to cancel the event will likely be beneficial in the long run, as Tampa is already a hotspot for Coronavirus numbers. This year, to celebrate the successes of Tampa sports teams it is safer to stay indoors with a small group of friends or family.