TAMPA, Florida -- And so it begins; cannons, costumes, beads, and pirates are invading downtown Tampa. It's the kickoff to the big Gasparilla weekend, and Mayor Bob Buckhorn ushered in the 2013 season with a futile attempt to keep the key to the city away from Jose Gaspar.
In Ybor, the Krewe of Sant' Yago is sweeping, cleaning, and bringing in supplies. It takes weeks to get the floats up to speed with new LED lights, signage, and cutting edge technology.
"Our founders ... went to Spain to get a charter that dates back to 1174, so our history goes a long way back," said Mike Valdez, float organizer for the Krewe of Sant 'Yago.
The month-long Gasparilla Festival is a big money maker for the city, with an estimated impact of $40 million. Why is it so popular?
"I guess it comes down to everyone loves a parade. It is Tampa. It's got its charm here, and we pile them in," said Simon Canasi, executive director of the Krewe of Sant 'Yago.
So get your beads and parrots ready, Jose Gaspar and his band of pirate thugs are looking for you ... to have a great time.
"If you ask anyone who comes here from out of town they ooh and aww, they've never seen an spectacle quite like this," said Valdez.
Follow 10 News Reporter Charles Billi on twitter @Charles Billi