Collecting The “Booty” From the Pirade Of Pirates

Photo by Dana Achatz

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.”

An objective view of Gasparilla

A self-portrait of Doug Marriott.
Doug Marriott won’t be attending Gasparilla Pirate Festival anytime soon.

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.”

Parking for booty during Gasparilla

Henry Sutter outside the Business Law Group
Henry Sutter outside the Business Law Group, P.A.
Sherry Cook fundraising for the Tampa Lighthouse for the Blind.
Sherry Cook fundraising for the Tampa Lighthouse for the Blind.








Along West Platt Street, people were profiting for different causes by offering parking spots in private properties.

Sherryl Cook, employment specialist at the Tampa Lighthouse for the Blind, was one of them. She started at the parking lot around 9:30 a.m.

The Tampa Lighthouse for the Blind is a non-profit organization that offers rehabilitation programs for persons who are blind or visually impaired.

“It usually picks up around one when the parade is going on,” Cook said.

The idea started 16 years ago when one of her coworkers discovered a group of homeless charging people for using their office parking lot during Gasparilla. They decided it would be a good idea create a fundraiser to collect donations to support the organization.

They agreed to a price match with other nearby parking lots to make it fair. This year they charged 20 dollars for each spot.

There were 50 spots, and Cook said she planned to be there until 2 p.m.

Cooks’ plans for the rest of the day were going home and resting after a long morning at the parking lot.

Henry Sutter, 57, was another Tampa resident who decided to make some profit out of Gasparilla.

Holding a “Best Parking” sign, Sutter started at 9 a.m. working at the parking lot with his wife Patty Sutter, who works as a legal attorney at the Business Law Group, P.A., a community association law firm.

They have done this before for collecting money and donating it to the Boys Scouts or churches. This year they did it if for their own profit.

“This is year is going to my daughter’s college car fund,” Henry Sutter said.

They had 35 spots. They charged 30 dollars per car.

“Once every two or three years, I’m here,” Henry Sutter said. “We rotate turns with other people from the law firm.”