Tampa, Florida -- It's Tampa's iconic pirate celebration that has been going on for more than 100 years: the Gasparilla Pirate Invasion and Parade. Ye Mystic Krewe of Gasparilla puts on a colorful parade and the city provides security, clean-up, bleacher set-up and tear-down.
This year, there is added concern for the event, which draws up to a half a million people each year.
Tampa Police Chief Jane Castor says, "After the incident at the Boston Marathon, that changed the landscape of any large event through the United States."
Castor says there will be extra security for Gasparilla to keep people along the parade route safe and that drives up the cost: in excess of $600,000 just for Gasparilla, another $170,000 for the Children's Parade... and when you add in the nighttime parade, taxpayers are footing almost a million dollars for these events.
But unlike the Boston Marathon -- which gives the police $198,000 and affected governmental agencies another $619,000 to compensate for added costs -- the Krewe (which has a net worth of $4.1 million) has a lease with the City of Tampa that pays the city one dollar through 2021.
We asked Krewe Captain, Dr. James C. Von Thron if the Krewe helped out with the cost for the city. Von Thron says, "The Krewe spends substantial amounts of money to put on this parade."
While tax records show the Gasparilla Krewe takes in $1.8 million in grants and contribution and spends $1.2 million putting on the event, Von Thron says most of the money is given to a private company, Event Fest, which runs the parade. We contacted Event Fest, but no one from the company returned our calls.
According to Von Thron, "It takes so much logistics and so much to put on the parade. The Krewe invests a tremendous amount of money to make the parade work."
Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn says it is a good deal.
"Not only is it a long-standing tradition, people love Gasparilla, they love the invasion. But the bottom line is this is an economic impact of about $14 million to the city. What we invest, that small amount, pays huge dividends."
The Mayor gets that information from an economic impact study commissioned by the Krewe in 2007. However, USF economics Professor Dr. Philip Porter counters, "It's not worth the paper it is printed on."
Porter, who is a court-recognized expert on economic impact studies, told us three years ago that this study is not to be believed. "It's a bogus application for a model that's not appropriate for its application, with numbers that were made up out of thin air."
But Von Thron contends, "I think it is obvious it is such a great benefit to our city."
While it is a fun event, keep in mind just like there is no such thing as a "free lunch" and in Tampa, there is no such thing as a "free parade."
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