Downtown Tampa was flooded with inebriated pirates celebrating the 101st Gasparilla Pirate Festival on Saturday. Almost all of them relied on Uber services to take them to where X marked the spot, the following bar on the map.
While Uber drivers searched Bayshore Boulevard picking up dressed up pirates, a separate group of Uber drivers gathered for a different cause.
Nearly 30 Uber drivers gathered on North Dale Mabry to protest the recent changes made to driving rates. Uber recently cut 20 percent off prices for Tampa drivers in an effort to reduce the “slump” they suffered in January, according to their website.
Messages such as “UberFail” and “Lower fare=higher surge” inscribed on their cars showed that these drivers were trying to send a message.
Uber originally started at $1.80 in the Tampa Bay area and has since dropped to 65 cents per mile. Brian Decker, 22, has been a six month Uber driver and said that drivers are not satisfied with the rate cuts and feel as if Uber is reaping the benefits.
“We chose Gasparilla to send this message because it’s one of the most important days for Uber drivers in Tampa,” Decker said. “Uber has constantly been cutting down the rate and leaving drivers with almost no reason to drive.”
The protest started at 2:30 p.m. which was expected to be Uber’s highest time of demand with increased prices. Uber recorded rates of 6.9 times the average rate during the afternoon of last years Gasparilla Pirate Festival.
Despite last years increased rates, drivers complained that this year’s rates were not nearly as close to what was expected.
“It’s pretty ridiculous quite honestly,” Decker said. “I wasn’t planning to drive today and I’ve seen that the surge is only around 1.5 and that’s not close to what Uber was saying.”
Despite certain Uber drivers not being satisfied with the expected surge rate, Gasparilla attendee Samantha Heffernan, 24, said her price of travel was increased certainly from regular rates.
“I was told to enter a promo code that would take money off my Uber charge, but even with that I still had to pay 34 dollars,” Heffernan said. “The surge rate I saw was about 3.2 times the normal rate, so I’m pretty confident drivers made their money.”
Several companies such as Captain Morgan gave Uber users a promo code for which allowed users to get a ride for a discounted rate.
Uber has yet to address whether or not rates will increase for drivers, which according to Decker, will affect their numbers.
“Some people use this as their main job, others don’t. It doesn’t matter what your occupation is, 65 cents a mile is not going to work for anyone,” Decker said.
After a four year hiatus, full of tragedies and blessings, Trecenia Foster and her boyfriend Anthony are finally back in Tampa. They marked their return by attending the Gasparilla parade and celebration on Saturday.
The couple embraced the memories they made at Gasparilla in the past, and were eager to make more.
“It was fantastic, the streets were filled with people who are celebrating together in unity and fun,” Foster said. “We also got to meet new people from all over the world who we became great friends with.”
Through the four years away from Gasparilla, the couple has had some major reproductive health concerns, which led to three miscarriages. The couple was still attempting to remain open and positive about this and Gasparilla has played a major role in that. It has helped them be able to cope and find comfort in being around others.
“We are pretty reserved and didn’t like being around people.” Foster said. “It (Gasparilla) has opened us up and allowed us to let loose and be open with the community around us.”
Gasparilla has impacted this couple in a positive way and has helped them feel more connected with people as a whole.
With Anthony being active duty in the Army, the couple has spent roughly four years out of the United States. They spent some time in Qatar, a country in the Middle East, which prevented them from attending Gasparilla. Upon returning to Tampa they had their first child.
“We welcomed our first daughter in 2004 after having three losses, we were finally blessed with her,” Foster said.
This year the couple dressed up in the same costumes that they wore four years ago and got a great reaction from the Gasparilla crowd. Anthony dressed up as Jack Sparrow from Pirates of the Caribbean and Foster as Sparrow’s partner. However there was one downfall in Foster’s opinion.
“We got stopped over 100 times for photos, I am so glad to be home,” Foster said. “That’s one thing that is annoying about dressing up, but it is fun,”
Overall the couple had a great time. This year they declined to be on floats, but maybe next year they’ll accept the offer.
“It was a blast, we were asked to go on floats too but declined,” Foster said.
If you were to ask a Tampa native what the Gasparilla Pirate Festival was, they may say an event full of tradition, pride, excitement and debauchery. If you asked a newcomer what Gasparilla was, they may compare it to an outtake of a “Pirates of the Caribbean film.” Both would be right.
The annual Gasparilla Pirate Festival has been celebrated in Tampa Bay since 1904, and more than 100 years later, it is still one of the most anticipated events of the year. Located along Bayshore Blvd., the festival attracts around 300,000 attendees. There is one common theme among the crowd, regardless of age. Pirates. Almost everyone is dressed as pirates. For the Gasparilla veterans, this is much more than a hyped up costume party, it’s a lifestyle.
“I was born on Gasparilla in 1977, and the pirates came to the hospital and actually held me,” said Ryan Euhus, an avid Gasparilla goer dressed head to toe in elaborate pirate garb. “I’m my own pirate crew.”
Gasparilla is a time for Tampa residents to forget about their stresses, bond with their family members and actually party like it’s 1821. Where there is a horde of pirates, there must be a fleet of ships as well. That’s where the floats come in, with the parade lasting around 100 organizations, businesses or krewes. Pirate krewes, that is.
“I’m 37 and have been to Gasparilla every year since I was 4. The only year I missed was when I was pregnant,” said Heather Hughes, an excited crowd member.
Not everyone in attendance had experienced Gasparilla before. Most newcomers are college students who are originally from another city or state. They’re intrigued by the idea of a celebration revolved around dressing like pirates, drinking copious amounts of rum and removing garments of clothing for plastic beads.
“It’s my first time. It’s a little hectic but it’s a lot of fun so far,” said Jillian Olsen, a junior and resident assistant at the University of South Florida. “I’m expecting it to be elaborate and I want to get a lot of beads.”
Hectic doesn’t even begin to explain the crowd so large and lively, cell phone service literally goes down for hours. Good luck finding your Uber in a sea of drunken scallywags waving plastic swords. Even so, Tampa residents start counting down the days until next year’s celebration.
“It’s a time to have fun, and be proud of your city,” said Hughes. “It’s definitely something to experience.”
Even though some people view Gasparilla as a holiday to make it an all day party Marilyn Pereira wasn’t convinced. Pereira decided to stay away from the madness at Bayshore Boulevard and work a double shift as a server at World of Beer on Saturday. To her there was not much of an appeal to attend the event. It was more important to her to make some money than see the parade.
“I didn’t request off for Gasparilla because I didn’t really even know what it was,” Pereira said. “I just moved here and I didn’t know Gasparilla was today until pretty much everyone I work with requested off.”
Sometimes called the Mardi Gras of Florida; the Gasparilla Parade of Pirates attracts thousands to Tampa every year. The parade takes over the streets of downtown for a majority of the day. People from all over Florida make the trip to celebrate, and most of them are dressed up like pirates.
Pereira worked all morning and through most of the evening. She said she saw an increase in customers during her second shift Saturday evening after the parade had ended.
She described large groups of people of all ages weighed down with beads and wearing fake black beards and hats with giant feathers. She seemed to find the outfits a little silly. Even though she made more money than she had originally expected, she decided it might be worth it to attend Gasparilla next year.
“Yeah I would go. It would’ve been fun to tag along with someone,” Pereira said. “Maybe next year.”
University of South Florida alumni returned to their old stomping grounds on Sunday for the Tampa Repertory Theatre’s production of “True West,” a comedy about two brothers arguing over a screenplay that could change their lives.
Screenplay director Megan Lamasney was excited to come back to her alma mater and showcase her work.
“I was an undergrad here in the theater department and it was cool to come back to home base and see where it started,” Lamasney said. “It was great bringing some exciting work here.”
Although Lamasney was excited for the project, actor Jack Holloway was rather nervous when asked to perform. Rather than sticking to one role, Holloway had to alternate roles between both brothers in the screenplay.
“I was terrified when Megan called me and told me about doing the roles and then switching every night,” Holloway said. “I had never done that before in terms of switching roles, so I was a bit nervous.”
Being back in the Theatre Arts Rehearsal Building brought back several memories for Holloway.
“It was wonderful, but it is strange because a part of the play is about coming back home and it feels like I don’t have to act that,” Holloway said. “It’s honestly surreal because you’re acting in a place where you grew up.”
On the other side of the play is actor Dan Granke, who is a performing arts professor at USF. Granke admitted that getting to perform and being able to teach students was a unique experience.
“This is home for me, this is where I work and it very much feels like home,” Granke said. “I have so many students who haven’t seen me perform, and it feels great to show them rather than just tell them.”
Granke worked constantly with Holloway to perfect the art of switching the roles each night and staying in character. While difficult, Granke enjoyed the challenge and said it comes with good parts.
“It’s a lot of fun because it’s a piece that has its hard moments, but it also has its comic moments. So getting to do both allowed you to feel like you’re not stuck to one role,” Granke said.
Granke moved to Tampa in 2013 to become a professor, meanwhile working with Holloway as an artistic director for the Tampa Shakespeare Festival.
“It was interesting because when I moved here three years ago, I was told that I have a doppelgänger,” Granke said. “We both love working together, Jack and I do comedy, stage combat and we’ve gotten close over the years.”
Aside from the great role and being able to perform in front of students, Granke said his first priority was and always is to entertain.
“I go out as an actor, I’m also a director and a fight director,” Granke said. He directs the combat onstage during scenes.“My goal is always to entertain people. I want to challenge people and just let people have a good time so they want to come back and see more.”
Granke holds theater performances close to his heart because in today’s age of digital streaming and technology, the art of live theater seems rare to him.
“Any time there’s a chance for live theater I think it’s great, and with everything becoming live streaming it’s kind of hard to appreciate it,” Granke said. “I just think theater is just one of those places where you can’t do it any other way.”
After six years of USF’s first tobacco ban, the university decided to spread the policy throughout the entire campus.
USF officials say the policy was made to incentivize people to stop smoking, not to punish them.
“USF Health had previously gone tobacco and smoke free in 2009 and the St. Pete and Sarasota Manatee campuses are also tobacco smoke free,” said USF Assistant Director of Communications Aaron Nichols.
“So, Tampa is the last campus in the system to make this change.”
In 2011 USF President Judy Genshaft created the Tobacco Use Task Force, which consisted in a group of students and employees helping promote the transition of smoke free campus.
“That’s what led to the change of 2012 to restrictive smoking to certain areas. At the time, they didn’t think that the campus community was ready to go totally smoke and tobacco free,” said Nichols.
“And, that’s given us a really good transition period to lead up to this. At the time, I think, there was a lot shock at the policy and now it’s been well received.”
USF students have expressed mixed feelings about this new policy that starts next year which eliminates all 24 designated smoking areas.
“I think it benefits the environment and it also bothers some people because of the smell,” said USF student Nick Ramos. “I know whenever I walk by, I just like to keep my distance because the smell bothers me.”
USF student Ibrahim Aldairem says although the policy will be active next semester, many students have mentioned that they will continue smoking.
USF officials say the new policy will not be enforced by the campus police. They are hoping for peer enforcement.
The City of Tampa Police Department’s mission statement is to reduce crime and enhance the quality of life, through a cooperative partnership with all citizens. Chief Eric Ward plans to do his best during his term to make that happens.
“Back in the sixties and seventies, there was a strained relationship between law enforcement and the community,” said Chief of Police Eric Ward. “So I sought out this profession to make a difference.”
Chief Ward, a 27-year veteran, was appointed in May of this year by Mayor Bob Buckhorn. He was chosen over two other candidates —Mary O’Connor and Brian Dugan— Chief Ward later named the two his assistant chiefs of police. Chief Ward succeeded former Chief Jane Castor after her retirement.
One goal Chief Ward strives for is making a difference. Chief Ward, a Tampa native, stresses that citizen involvement needs to be increased to help reduce crime. He would like to leave the city of Tampa in better shape than it was when he began his tenure.
“It all boils down to when I first started,” said Chief Ward. “I wanted to make a difference and as chief of police I can say that I have that opportunity and I’m doing that now.”
Chief Ward credits his family as a strong support system. He makes it a point to always have his entire family at events.
“I was excited because I knew how much of a hard worker he is,” said Alberta Ward, Chief Ward’s wife. “I thought of the great things he could do for our city that he loves, our city that he cares for.”
Chief Ward continues to advise his officers and the citizens of Tampa to be vigilant. He advises if you see something wrong do what’s right to help the community.
After taking a quiz on the basics of experimental design, USF sophomore Ashtyn Leep watched the teaching assistant explain the different parts of the microscopes they would be using for their biology lab late Saturday afternoon.
Leep was in her second class of the day, having spent the earlier part of the afternoon in a physics lab. While taking classes over the weekend would be less than preferable in any given week, Leep was particularly frustrated on this Saturday.
While she pulled on her white lab coat in the Interdisciplinary Sciences building, her friends were enjoying the general mayhem of the Gasparilla Pirate Fest on Bayshore Boulevard.
“I hosted a pre-gaming party for my friends, and I didn’t go to Gasparilla,” said Leep. “I’m so mad, I almost cried.”
Her plans to attend the parade were complicated last week when a classmate pointed out that event overlapped with her 2 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. labs. She remained hopeful that she might make it for a brief time, so she did not cancel the party. It became clear to Leep Saturday morning that it would be impossible to make the trip from the university area to South Tampa and be back in time for her classes.
“I got Taco Bell to make myself feel better,” said Leep.
Leep said friends from as far away as Boca Raton began their day imbibing at her house. Some even borrowed her clothes for the parade. She sat on the sideline, preparing to learn about the parts of a microscope instead of the art of bead catching.
“My friend’s dad is a doctor, so I was tempted to have him write me a doctor’s note,” she said. “But I didn’t.”
Freshman Shawna Miller said she has gone to Gasparilla with a big group of friends and family every year until this one – she was also stuck in the lab. Like Leep, she had to live vicariously through pictures and videos her friends posted on social media.
“All of my friends are on Snapchat,” said Miller. “They’ve got their beads on, and I’m in a biology lab.”
Leep still had a bit of fun ahead of her. Her friends planned to return to her house after the parade to continue celebrating Gasparilla – and they owed her some of their treasure.
“They got me beads,” Leep said. “Hopefully. I’ll be mad if they didn’t.”
At the beginning of the new year, the University of South Florida implemented a tobacco ban across campus. After nearly two months, however, the university is having trouble enforcing it.
“Any time you change policy, or you change anything, you’re gonna’ have a few people that are maybe resistant to change, or are not ready to change just yet,” said Adam Freeman, USF Media/Public Affairs manager.
There is no law enforcement involved or surveillance used. Instead, the policy is peer enforced. The idea is that students and faculty hold each other accountable.
“If you see somebody on campus smoking using tobacco, if you feel comfortable, you can approach them and simply tell them this is a tobacco and smoke free campus and politely ask them to stop,” Freeman said.
Students and staff at USF have not exactly jumped on board with this concept yet. Instead, smokers have been gathering in the places that were designated smoking areas and sparking up just as they have in the past.
For a student who wishes to peer enforce, the process involves first asking the smoker to stop. If that doesn’t work, then reporting the smoker to the nearest building manager is the next step. The building manager then could turn them in, subjecting the smoker to either the student code of conduct or disciplinary action, which depends on the position of the offender.
A protest was held Wednesday by several smokers, but USF is not budging on its tobacco policy.
While people in Tampa found the area’s annual Gasparilla Parade appealing with its copious amounts of alcohol, oodles of beads and massive caravans of floats, Riverview resident Doug Marriott viewed the event in a different light.
Keeping in mind the historical traditions that the parade celebrates, Marriott, 24, says he sees Gasparilla as just another excuse for people to become highly inebriated in today’s version of it, amid all of the swashbuckling participants.
“I personally feel like any connection to the original reason for celebration has just given way to a reason for people to dress like pirates and day drink,” Marriott said.
Marriott was out of town this past Saturday when the parade occurred, but says he wouldn’t have gone regardless, as he had been required to be at the parade several years in a row back in his high school days.
The sheer amount of pedestrians every year devoid of inhibitions was enough to permanently deter him from Gasparilla’s festivities.
“I haven’t gone in the past, nor do I plan on going in the future because I have experienced the negative side of the parade first hand while marching with my high school band,” Marriott said. “I don’t think it’s a great idea, but I don’t think it’s a bad idea either.”
Despite the double edged opinion he has of Gasparilla, Marriott is still intrigued by the concept of the parade, as it has its fair share of irony.
“I think Gasparilla is certainly an interesting tradition,” He said. “I personally find it odd that we celebrate the pirate invasion of our home, considering pirates’ proclivity for murder, thievery and otherwise violent crime.”
The parade still remains a major part of Tampa’s rich culture every January, and for that Marriott does give it credit.
Gasparilla’s seemingly endless surplus of glittery beads and foamy, everlasting fountains of Miller Lite are comparable to New Orleans’ Mardi Gras, except with a more Caribbean flavor.
“I think it somewhat contributes positively to Tampa culture. It sets us apart from other cities, it seems to be a unique event in our history,” Marriott said. “The drunk people certainly don’t help much though.”
When pirates invade the city of Tampa, residents party with the swashbucklers as they stagger across Bayshore Blvd. Leading the convoy of invaders was the crew of the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino.
With Seminole Hard Rock as the primary sponsor of the 2016 Gasparilla Pirate Festival, the crew was second only to the grand marshal of the parade this year. Every year Seminole Hard Rock makes it a priority to provide the opportunity for their workers to participate in the parade.
On this year’s float they had members from multiple sections of the hotel and casino, President of Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino John Fontana and members of the Tampa Bay Rowdies.
Without a doubt though, the people who attract the most attention on the casino themed float are the Hard Rock Girls, a group of women who represent Hard Rock through promotional events and the annual calendar.
“It’s the most fun I have every year as a Hard Rock Girl” said Jasah Millican, “We get on the float and then we throw beads from start to finish, we dance and have a great time.”
Millican is in her third year as a Hard Rock girl and considers her job, as an ambassador of the company, a privilege.
“As a Hard Rock Girl, it is always your job to be smiling, throwing beads and making sure everyone has good time.” Millican said.
While it may seem that the girls are there to just only entertain, they also make sure to give a personal touch to the parade. This year they met with the parade’s grand marshal, paralyzed Army veteran, Chief Warrant Officer Romulo “Romy” Camargo.
“He gave so much, and lost so much for his country, but he’s still giving back to the vets of Tampa.” Millican said. “Now Tampa is giving back to him…It was a much more personal side of the parade.”
When the Hard Rock girls aren’t going throwing beads during pirate themed parades, they are still raising money for charitable causes, through their calendars.
“As far as benefitting us financially, it all goes back into Tampa.” Millican said, “Why wouldn’t I take a picture for charity, for Tampa, my hometown?”
Andrea and Andrell Smith weren’t like other twins. No, together these girls achieved a district championship, a national junior college championship and being named to the all-big first and second team. They had obvious basketball talent.
“We had fun and we knew it was serious and we wanted to be good, but never did I think I would play professionally,” said Andrell Smith.
A college athletic career became more of a reality for the dynamic duo in 12th grade. They graduated high school to go on to play at Gulf Coast Community College, then later transferred to the University of South Florida.
“We came to South Florida to make a name for South Florida and to also make a name for [ourselves],” said Andrea Smith.
As seniors, they led USF to the NCAA tournament. A professional career became promising for the two guards.
“I always wanted to be a professional athlete. I always wanted to, you know, play basketball for my career,” said Andrea.
After being drafted in the third round, Andrea became just the second Polk County female to be drafted to the WNBA. It’s something most college athletes dream about, but so few actually achieve. However, the pros were a whole different court from college level basketball.
“That was probably the hardest basketball I’ve ever played, because that’s how physical it is. That’s how different from Division 1, the best in collegiate sports Division 1, then you go pro and it’s just wow,” Andrea recounted.
Take it from two athletes that have “been there and done that” throughout their college play; an athletic career is not always a forever thing.
“Don’t take your education for granted, listen to your professors, listen to your academic advisors, because they want you to succeed. You cannot always play a sport your entire life. You have to put the ball down at some point,” remarked Andrell.
So what is life like after being in the spotlight during college?
“I’m so happy with life, I couldn’t be in a better situation,” said Andrell.
“Yeah I absolutely agree with her. It’s been awesome, it’s great, you know, I wouldn’t do anything different,” said Andrea.
While football and basketball may be the most prominent sports at most college campuses, tennis threatens to make a splash at the University of South Florida. The men’s tennis team has won back-to-back American Athletic Conference championships, and they’re led by a player who can walk around USF campus almost unnoticed.
Roberto Cid, a tall, lanky senior who moved to Florida from the Dominican Republic when he was 13, received the honor of All-American following his sophomore campaign two years ago.
“Since I came here, I had big goals with the coach (Matt Hill),” said Cid. “Hopefully I can continue to make history.”
What gives Cid his edge over his rivals? His notorious competitive streak would be a good place to start. A favorite story among the tennis team is that Cid was playing the third ranked player in the country at a tournament this past season. The player did something that Cid was not happy with, and it showed in the results. Cid won, and his opponent walked off the court saying “I just can’t beat him.”
Cid is the fifth ranked player in the country for men’s singles and 982nd in the entire world. He is trying to focus on the present, which includes winning a national championship as a Bull.
“This year we have a really good team. We can definitely do something special at the end of the year,” Cid said.
In this episode: New transportation taxes, Backyard gun-ranges officially banned, Bradenton homebuilder joins Senate race, a new study just how much drivers engage in risky behaviors, and the Tampa Theater plans to host an Oscar party.
The Celebrate Outreach group is teaming up with a University of South Florida professor to help provide shelter to homeless veterans in the Tampa Bay area. The organization contacted Josué Robles Caraballo last year about building what they call “tiny homes” for homeless veterans.
Caraballo accepted the challenge. He designed a class for USF’s spring 2016 semester where students will ultimately create a tiny home prototype. The class meets every Tuesday from 5:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. to discuss different ideas of what the home should include. The students began making models and drawing up designs during the first class.
Caraballo gives students useful feedback to help them improve their models. Student Chris Loper said he took the class because he wants to help end veteran homelessness.
Caraballo said there are many ways to help the effort. People interested in helping can contact Caraballo or the Celebrate Outreach program. People do not have to necessarily donate their money. Their time would be greatly appreciated as well.
PKG SCRIPT FORMAT
(Tiny Homes/ Tampa, FL)
Anchor on camera
Jose Rubles/USF Professor
Chris Loper/USF Student
SLUG: TINY HOMES
NAME: GREG LAFOUNTAIN
DATE: Thursday, February 25, 2016
(Anchor on camera)
IT’S A TINY FIX FOR A BIG PROBLEM. A UNIVERSITY OF SOUTH FLORIDA PROFESSOR AND HIS STUDENTS ARE WORKING HARD TO HELP HOMELESS VETERANS IN THE BAY AREA.
IT’S A TINY FIX FOR A BIG PROBLEM. A UNIVERSITY OF SOUTH FLORIDA PROFESSOR AND HIS STUDENTS ARE WORKING HARD TO HELP HOMELESS VETERANS IN THE BAY AREA.
THE CELEBRATE OUTREACH PROGRAM CONTACTED USF PROFESSOR JOSE RUBLES WITH AN IDEA A FEW MONTHS AGO.
“They had this great idea of providing homes for homeless veterans in St Pete.”
THE PROFESSOR AND HIS STUDENTS ARE HARD AT WORK AT THE SCHOOL OF AGRICUTURE AND COMMUNITY DESIGN. TO STUDENTS LIKE CHRIS LOPER, THIS IS MORE THAN JUST A CLASS.
“Homelessness and the issues the extend from that, but then also fusing that with the veteran crises we’re dealing with now.”
The Tampa Bay area is host to various bands and artists throughout the year. No Clubs Media helps make the events possible by specializing in campaigns and social media.
No Clubs Media Marketing Director, Kristin Stigaard, is a part of a team that creates the shows for concertgoers.
“People don’t realize that we are the people that put on these shows because we don’t really market ourselves,” Stigaard said. “We market the shows.”
According to their website, No Clubs State Media is a promotional company that has brought iconic and original entertainers to the area for the past 25 years. They promote the shows through campaigns and social media.
State Theatre is one of the many venue halls that host the shows promotional companies put on.
“No Clubs is the kind of company where they book the up and coming bands and they keep booking them as they keep rising,” State Theatre Public Relations and Marketing Director Lucy Volpe said. “They start here at State Theatre and keep growing from there.”
Some of their more notable names include: Red Hot Chili Peppers, Lady Gaga, Kendrick Lamar and Carly Rae Jepsen.
“It’s kind of like a community when you’re in a concert setting and you’re singing along,” said Stigaard. “That’s what we do.”