Gasparilla: Beginning a tradition

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Bauduc jumps on Wojcik’s back to pose for a photo. Photo courtesy:  Kristopher Rodriguez

For best friends Anna Bauduc and Aley Wojcik, Gasparilla is the beginning of a new tradition.

After meeting a few months ago, Bauduc and Wojcik have become inseparable. To honor their friendship, they’ve decided to start a tradition of attending Gasparilla every year together.

“I love traditions, so this was a no brainer,” Bauduc said. “We want our friendship to last no matter what and what better event to come to then Gasparilla?”

Their goal is to maintain contact throughout the years to come. Coming together for this event will keep their friendship alive.

“We all know that as we grow up, we lose some friends,” Wojcik said. “We’re doing this because we know Gasparilla will be around for a while and that gives us an event to come back to every year.”

They’ve heard about Gasparilla from their friends and siblings, but the amount of fun they’ve had was surprising to them.

“I was a bit skeptical about this whole thing,” Wojcik said. “This just seemed like a place where people come to get drunk and that’s not really my scene.”

She was happy to see how wonderful everyone around her was. Finding out that these people are friendly and are here to have a good time has made the event exceed her expectations.

“We met a guy who came all the way from New York,” Bauduc said. “He told us his parents used to come to Gasparilla ages ago and he wanted to see what all the hype was about.”

With around 200,000 people parading down Bayshore Boulevard, this year’s Gasparilla lived up to its reputation.

“It is pretty intense at first with all the people around you,” Wojcik said. “But once you get used to that and the beads start flying, it’s all fun.”

Bauduc and Wojcik spent the day chronicling their adventures through pictures. Bauduc jumped on Wojcik’s back at one point in excitement. They were both clearly enjoying their time at Gasparilla.

“Hopefully we’ll be here next year and the year after that,” Wojcik said. “Knowing my luck, something ridiculous will try and prevent me from coming.”

“The beginning of a tradition is always nerve-wracking,” Bauduc said. “But we hope we can continue doing this and maybe when we’re old and boring we have kids we can pass along the tradition to.”

Wild Days Light Up SeaWorld Orlando

ORLANDO – Growing up in Puerto Rico, Celivette Diaz always dreamed of visiting SeaWorld.

“All of my cousins would come to Florida and talk about SeaWorld,” Diaz said. “They would tell me how amazing it was and I was always so jealous.”

Luck seemed to be on her side, because a few months ago, her parents surprised her with a trip to Florida. It just so happened that her trip would fall during a time where SeaWorld hosted their annual Wild Days event.

According to SeaWorld’s website, “Wild Days connects guests to the wild and wonderful world we all share, with educational and interactive shows that give guests the opportunity to meet leaders in the world of animal rescue, rehabilitation and preservation.”

“I didn’t know anything about Wild Days,”  Diaz said. “I’m happy I managed to make it to the second weekend because I love penguins.”

This year, Wild Days takes place every Saturday and Sunday on the last three weekends of January. Each weekend has a different theme to it. Diaz visited on the second weekend, which was Penguin Lovers’ Weekend.

Only for this weekend, SeaWorld’s Animal Ambassador Julie Scardina hosts a special penguin focused event where you can meet a penguin.

“I’ve had a lot of fun today,” said Diaz’s sister, Valeria. “They give you a map with spaces to get stamps from different places in the park. Once you get them all you get a free key chain.”

Wild Days is not just a one-on-one with animal experts. People of all ages can take part in various interactive games, up-close experiences and interesting, learning sessions at the 14 zones scattered throughout the park. Once inside select zones, guests can collect one of six stamps that leads to a free key chain and a behind-the-scenes tour of SeaWorld’s rescue area.

One of Diaz’s favorite places in the theme park was the Dolphin Cove area. This part of the park is where SeaWorld houses their dolphins and has them available for underwater viewing.

Diaz was vey excited to be near the dolphins.
Diaz was vey excited to be near the dolphins.

“Dolphins have always been my favorite animal,” Diaz said. “I would always see them on the television, but to see them so close to you is wonderful.”

Wild Days always draws in the crowds at SeaWorld. Even though the high today was 56 degrees, park hours were extended by 30 minutes because of the popularity of the event.

“It’s crazy how busy the park is right now,”  Kendall Starke said, an employee at one of SeaWorld’s attractions. “Usually now we’re in the middle of post-Christmas time slump.”

SeaWorld aims to educate people on the ways to keep animals and the environment safe. They have a special show that aims to teach guests about the care that their orca’s receive on a daily basis.

Even though she has always been a huge SeaWorld fan, Diaz was a bit disappointed in the company back when the documentary “Blackfish” came out. She, like many, believed that SeaWorld was mistreating their orcas.

“I was angry at them for a long time after watching the movie,”Diaz said. “But being here today and seeing how much love and care they give their animals tells me everything I need to know.”

The last weekend of Wild Days will occur on Jan. 30 – 31.