Master Sergeant Christian MacKenzie
Tampa, Florida -- Victorious yet again! Jose Gasparilla's pirates of the Ye Mystic Krewe successfully invaded Tampa on Saturday, which then lead to them celebrating down Bayshore Blvd. in the annual Gasparilla Parade.
130 entries walked through the parade, including 90 elaborate floats and 14 marching bands. Some pirates came from all over the country, including Philadelphia, Pennsylvania!
PHOTOS: Pirates invade Tampa for Gasparilla
Gasparilla Parade's title sponsor, The Hard Rock Hotel and Casino, selected the grand marshal this year, United States Air Force Master Sergeant Christian MacKenzie. He is a Tampa veteran with MacDill Air Force Base's U.S. Special Operations Command's Care Coalition. He helps with wounded, ill, and injured veterans.
While serving in Iraq in 2004, a grenade hit his helicopter. He sustained severe injuries that have prevented him from coming to Gasparilla.
"It actually blew up in my face, broke my head in three places, blind in left eye, flash burns, shrapnel injuries," said Master Sgt. Christian MacKenzie. "For my organization to be selected, it was an honor, but for me to be selected by my peers to represent the entire thing just blew me away. They could have picked any Hollywood celebrity or politician, so I am very honored to do this."
It is also the master sergeant's first time at Gasparilla. He has been stationed in Tampa the last ten years, but he was unable to attend the event after his injuries.
"I would have always been more on guard, worrying about crowds that I cannot see out of my eye, instead of enjoying myself," explained Master Sgt. MacKenzie. "I couldn't imagine a better way to enjoy the parade than be in it!"
Some youngsters had their first Gasparilla experience as well. "I love it," said 3-year-old Morgan.
Others refuse to miss it every year.
"I have never missed a Gasparilla parade my entire life and I am 70 years old!" shouted Gayle Zeno.
"I've been coming every year since I was born. That is 24 years!" shouted another paradegoer.
The parade route was 3.8 miles down Bayshore Blvd., starting at Bay to Bay Blvd., then east on Brorein Street, then north on Ashley Drive, and it ended at Cass Street and Ashley Drive.
More on Gasparilla 2014:
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