For more than a hundred years, Tampa Bay has hosted Gasparilla, an annual event where many people dress up like pirates and drink in public (I'm not making this up). There are three major Gasparilla parades throughout the month of February and all of them help define where Tampa residents are in their lives. Allow me a moment to ‘splain please.

Gasparilla features three separate parades: the kiddie parade (which I have never attended because it's for parents and their children), the day parade in Tampa and the night parade in Ybor City. When I was in college, we typically avoided the day parade because it had the audacity to start around noon, which, quite frankly, is too early for any self-respecting college student. For this reason, the night parade in Ybor City is more popular amongst the college-age crowd. As we residents of Tampa age, we trade the night parade for the day parade (I never went to the day parade in college, but haven't missed one in the last five years). I hadn't been to the night parade in six years.

But all of that changed yesterday, when I headed down to Ybor City with a camera that I procured from my friend Doug (thanks Buddy) so that I could bring you a photo-journal of the parade from Tampa Bay's historic cigar rolling district.

Two notes before we get started.

I asked a female coworker of mine (she's 26) if she was going to the Gasparilla Night Parade and she said that she wasn't going because she didn't really feel like getting raped. Unfortunately, this is a very real fear for women at Gasparilla. In fact, during this year's day parade, a woman who called the cops because she was raped was later arrested and taken into custody because she had a warrant out. And the day parade is the saner of the two. For the night parade, police estimate an average of one death and four rapes (no joke) every year. That adds an element of risk to the whole thing. I mean, every year you go you've got a 1 in 150,000 chance of dying. Even bungee jumping hasn't claimed as many lives as Gasparilla. Warrants mentioning.

Ybor City, which hosts the Gasparilla Night Parade, is one of my favorite parts of Tampa Bay. It offers an interesting Cuban-meets-Italian architectural style, many great bars, clubs and restaurants, and also hosts Guavaween (kind of like the Gasparilla Night Parade except people dress up like whatever they want instead of as pirates). I took Fearless Editor Court Sullivan to Ybor City once for dinner and drinks (after an afternoon of drinking) and later asked him what he thought of the place.

His exact words were, “Dude, when did we go there?”

After taking a look at these photos, I have a newfound respect for photographers. Apparently, there really is a lot more to it than point and shoot.


This is a picture of The Columbia restaurant, a part of Ybor since 1905. If you're ever in Tampa, and your income is six figures, this is an awesome restaurant. If you make less than that, it's overpriced.


I arrived with Rum, Coke and a Buccaneers cup and set up a home base at an awesome store called Neo Trash.


This is Taylor, one of Neo Trash's employees. She is graduating from USF this semester. After I told her when I graduated from USF she told me, “You should really go back to the campus and check it out. They've changed it a lot since you went there. It looks like a real university now.” Thanks, Taylor.


This is Trixie. She owns Neo Trash (located at 1515 Seventh Ave in Ybor City) and grew up with my sister. Trixie is, for all intents and purposes, a member of my extended family. Do not smoke weed in her store. It pisses her off.


You can't see it in this picture (because I took it), but at the beginning of the parade, the cops all drove by and handed out beads.


I have no idea where I took this or what it's supposed to be a picture of.


To get a float in this parade, you actually have to submit a proposal to the county. No joke.


I hung out with this guy for most of the parade. He took every bead he could find and winged them to the other side of the street. At one point, he hit a really old lady in the jaw. But at least he felt bad about it.


Seriously, these people have a permit to dress like pirates and throw beads from a float. I love this town.


I ate this standing up at a busy corner. Every time someone walked by, they either commented on how disgusting or delicious they thought it looked. It was delicious.


The two ladies on the left were above Neo Trash during the parade. For whatever reason, they elected to continuously pelt me with beads. People were actually getting jealous. No joke.


They threw down all this shit. Looks like I've got beads for next year.


Jesus or hell. Those are your two choices. That's all you get.


Crushed beads, beer and vomit. The parade must be over.


Interesting story about this chick.


You see, the dude on the left was basically baby sitting her. She has a boyfriend and she was out with another guy (not the dude on the left) but she kept hitting on the dude on the left here, but he didn't want to get into trouble with the boyfriend or the dude she was there with, so he passed her on to me and we were all over each other until she saw something shiny and ran into the street (no joke).


Everyone loves a pirate.

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