A return to Gasparilla marks a return home

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.

Gasparilla: Beginning a tradition

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.”

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.”