WOW...with 2008 being my 20th Gasparilla, it has to go in the books as one of the best(in the Top three for sure!).....and believe it or not, this was a first as I only had about two beers and maybe a little of the Captain and Ginger..practically alcohol free this year and what a BLAST!!
Joe and I had a nice big breakfast at my house before heading out we parked the truck at the Sheraton Hotel in downtown Tampa, and started the looong day from there. We met up with Lisa and Brian and headed over to Harbour Island. At 12 noon, there were already lots of people in downtown, the Midway area seemed a little rougher than usual as far as the carnies, but making it to Harbour Island was one the best things i've done for Gasparilla. Lots of great people lined up all along the waterfront from the Convention Center, over the bridges and onto Harbour Island. Jackson's had quite the party happening with great tunes, huge yachts and beautiful boats lined the marinas and harbor, LOTS of beautiful people. We found Dori, Darren and Caroline in front of the Westin along the water which was having their own party, all of us waiting for the massive Pirate Invasion. There were over a thousand boats this year in the Flotilla, and this was the BEST area to watch, (im usually on the other side by bayshore blvd watching the invasion), pirates came in and very close up, beads being thrown by the boaters, cannons and guns being fired, they docked at the Convention Center, and the Mayor handed over the key.
By 2pm, we left Harbour Island and headed over to the Parade route on Bayshore Blvd, we briefly met up with a few of our other friends, but as quickly as we met them, they had all disappered, and it was Joe and I making the Trek to some of the Gasparilla parties along the parade route. Walking along Bay Street there were some parties and bands in the street...we made it to Justin and Greg's who threw a great party along Swann, right off Bayshore Blvd. We were able to head to the parade after a few eats and drinks there...where there was another party with a band set up on the lawn along Bayshore just south of Swann. Seemed there were less people this year than usual, but lots of GREAT people watching. Plenty of room for catching the beads, and chillin with some of the awesome parade goers...I ran into quite a few people I havent seen in some time..thats one thing about Gasparilla thats nice, almost like a reunion of sorts, seeing people you may have worked with in another job, gone to college with in the past, or just came in from out of town for the event. After seeing a guy get tasered by the cops, a college dude showing the ladies his thinggy, a few other interesting moments, and having a neck FULL of beads(the hard rock casino beads were the best with slot machines around them)..we headed back over to Justin and Greg's where Big Earl had the megaphone shouting out to all the good looking people to lift their shirts for beads...it felt good just relaxing on the front lawn and watching the parade goers head back to their cars or wherever along Swann Ave..interestingly mostly guys were lifting their shirts for the beads..lots of great characters.
By 6:30 Joe and I headed back to downtown to change for the concert we were going to at the Forum, Alanis Morissette and Matchbox 20. On our walk back there, I couldnt believe the amount of trash on the streets, the very intoxicated straglers heading downtown for the Pirate Fest that lasts till 11pm. There was a Navy band playing cool tunes at Publix on Bayshore and Platt...on the walk to the Forum downtown Tampa we passed by FUEL that was playing at yet antoher stage, and had an amazing $6 soy burger(sarcasm)...
7:30pm we made it to the Forum, where yet another band was playing in front of the Arena entertaining those of us waiting to head into the concert...the area was hopping...one thing I noticed about walking around downtown compared to Bayshore, was there were alot more "less than desirables" hanging out in the downtown streets, a bit rougher crowd, than along Bayshore Blvd...fun none the less though...
The concert was incredible, excellent seats for Alanis Morrisette, she played about a 45 minute set, with all her old and new tunes, then we got a call from Kelly who invited us up one level to one of the Suites, directly on the side just in front of the stage, the BEST way to see a concert, the Suite was stocked with food and drinks, there were about 15 of us in the Suite,...Matchbox was incredible, they played for nearly 2 hours, Rob Thomas looked great, kept the crowd very entertained, he thanked the crowd lots, especially for getting started in the area years ago when they used to play Skippers Smokehouse..and mentioning the pirates led to beads being thrown up on stage a few times... it made for yet another awesome highlight to this years Gasparilla.
1230am - we made out of the Forum, and ready for bed...Kelly, Joe and I stopped by the 24 hour Village Inn on the way home for a little snack...and there ended a great Gasparilla in Tampa.
More fun to come this Gasparilla Season with the Pirate Farewell send off party at Channelside on the 9th, the Illuminated Gasparilla Night Parade in Ybor City on the 16th, the Gasparilla International Film Festival at the end of February, and ending with the Gasparilla Festival of the Arts March 2nd, 3rd in downtown.
2008 Gasparilla Video Coverage - WARNING! May not be suitable for ALL.