Saturday, January 27, 2007

Pirate Invasion a la Tampa

As promised here, today’s blog features a Spanish pirate, José Gaspar, aka Gasparilla, the "last of the Bucaneers who is claimed to have raided the west coast of Florida, during the late 18th and early 19th centuries", purportedly it seems, according to wikipedia. "Though he is a popular figure in Florida folklore, no evidence of his existence appears in writing before the early 20th century. His legend is celebrated every year in Tampa with the Gasparilla Pirate Festival", the same wikipedia text continues.

Today is our fourth encounter with this festive extravaganza, but it’s the first time I’m blogging it. The first encounter in 2004 occurred just a few days after we landed in US after a nine-year hiatus, and we didn’t know better then.

We made it to the Bayshore Boulevard on our second encounter, jostling through the crowd for a vantage position to grab the beads that were being sprayed from the passing floats. And we did not leave emptied handed. My “bountiful” wife here is the incontrovertible proof.

Last year, our friends visited us from Gainesville on the day of the parade, and as gracious hosts that we aspire to be, we gravitated to Bayshore Boulevard, and were contented to stay behind the crowd this time, which was actually thinning as we were there toward the end of the parade. But we did come away with our fair share of the “loot” consistent with our laid-back attitude.

This year, though, we decided to adopt a home strategy, staying home to watch the live telecast of the event that is, minus the rowdiness and with the unparalleled advantage of enjoying the on-going in “close range”, through the telescopic lens of the TV camera crew of Channel 8, WFLA-TV of Tampa, the local TV station covering the festivity live. So the images you are about to see below are actually TV screen shots, which explain their grainy look (with apologies) and the number 8 at the bottom right corner. The event announcement to the left is courtesy of the website of Gasparilla Pirate Festival.

With live commentary and recalling the at-site environment that we had experienced during the last two years, we felt as it we were there, lining along Bayshore Boulevard, without the accompaniment of beads/blings/trinkets landing in our laps of course. You too can log on to Tampa Tribune/WFLA, St. Pete Times, and the Gasparilla Pirate Festival to view video coverage and photo gallery of the event for an experience of the sight and sound peculiar to the pirate invasion of the City of Tampa .

The first image is the armada of pirates ships making their final sea-borne assault on the City of Tampa, forcing the Mayor to capitulate and hand over the City’s key. I’m sure it’s a spectacular taking, reminiscent of the historic raid by Gasparilla and his marauding crew on the west coast of Florida more than a couple of centuries ago, its folklore-like aura notwithstanding. This is an instance where a picture is truly worth a thousand words, which more than made up for the disappointment of not actually witnessing the "momentous" occasion.

The second image shows the newly minted State Governor, Charlie Crist, fresh from his gubernatorial victory late last year, being interviewed by a dressed up pirate. But the cover-up did not fool us, despite his use of pirate slang. We recognize instantly him as Bob Hite, one of the regular members of the newscast team at WFLA [I guess there is no way to camouflage the microphone]. Charlie Crist is the first state governor from the Tampa Bay area, but it’s too early to tell what that particular provenance will foreshadow for Tampa.

Next up is a shot of the City Mayor, Pam Iorio, being interviewed. She didn’t seem distressed at all by the “fact” that she was the one who surrendered the city to the invading pirates. In fact, she looked relieved, and a hearty laugh to boot. Well, after as many years of repeating the ritual as she has been the mayor, she ought to know what she is doing, that she is facing an impending mayoral contest does not seem to bother her.

Now that we have dispensed with the celebrities, let’s settle down to the parading krewe (pronounced identically to English "crew" and is an organization that puts on a parade and or a ball for the Carnival, according to wikipedia) members with their floats.

The left depicts a float hemmed in by parade spectators on both sides of the route while the right shows is a group of bagpipers, entertaining the reveling crowd. Both suffice to give you a general flavor of the carnival atmosphere that celebrates, of all things, a pirate invasion.

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