Gasparilla Through the Decades

By Amelie S.


The first Gasparilla was in 1904 according to Ye Mystic Krewe of Gasparilla (YMKG), and it was on horseback at the Tampa Bay Hotel. During this period, the first Coronation Ball took place. Also, in 1905 three cars were included in the parade. Then, from the years of 1906-1909, there wasn’t an invasion due to the lack of another big occasion like the May Day Festival.  


During this time, there wasn’t much happening, but YMKG’s first invasion on a ship was in 1911. Gasparilla also did not happen as a result of WWI. 


In 1923, the first Captain’s Ball, or “Pirate’s Ball” as they called it back then, was held. 


During this decade, for the first time, the invasion and parade were broadcast on national radios. In 1937, YMKG purchased their first ship called Jose Gasparilla I. 


There were a couple of years of missed Gasparilla invasions due to WWII, and nothing too drastic seems to have happened during the ’40s. 


1951 was the last usage of the Jose Gasparilla I since it was “unseaworthy,” but YMKG was gifted the Jose Gasparilla II to be used in 1954. Four borrowed ships, the Buccaneer’s Bride, Joseito, Sea Wolf, and Shark, were used in the 1953 invasion. 


YMKG started funding the parade without anyone else’s help. Another krewe, The Krewe of Venus, was also established in Tampa. 


The Tea Dance, which is typically held at Palma Ceia Golf and Country Club, began in this decade. A new krewe was established in Tampa. This new one was called the Krewe of the Knights of Sant’ Yago. Jose Gasparilla II’s last voyage was in 1975, and Gasparilla was moved to Bayshore Boulevard. 


In 1986, the tradition of throwing beads was started. The invasion was also switched from a Monday to a Saturday. 


This decade did not have much information marked down by the YMKG. 


The first Gasparilla Children’s Parade was held on a Saturday on Bayshore. The Jose Gasparilla II started shooting fireworks and cannon fire at this time.