Tampa, Florida -- Stepping through the doors at the Henry Plant Museum is stepping back into time.

As you make your way into historic building, a sparkle from a dress catches your eye where the Gasparilla: A Tampa Tradition exhibit is proudly showcased.

It's a time capsule unlocking the history of one of the country's largest parades that got its start just outside the doors of the University of Tampa, formerly the Tampa Bay, when the pirates of Ye Mystic Krewe invaded the city by horseback in 1904.

"It really shows the community, as old as this festival is, the community embraced it. You can look at pictures from 1925, 1935 and there were crowds and crowds of people," said Sally Shifke with Henry B. PlantMuseum relations.

The Gasparilla exhibit has been put on display at the museum every year since the late 1970's with the help of the Henry B. Plant Museum Society, a group of women who have deep roots and closets full of Tampa Bay history.

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"Their families go way back to the very beginning of Gasparilla, back to 1904, so they were able to pull together loans and materials from past coronation balls and festivals," explained Susan Carson, curator of the Henry B. Plant Museum.

There are multiplepictures on the wall that walk you through generations of Gasparilla celebrations and Coronation Balls.
You will findold posters, pennants, coins tossed by the pirates, and souvenirs from Coronation Balls, including several "crown jewels"that once belongedto the Gasparilla Kings andQueens of the past.

"The first King of Gasparilla actually spent the evening making this crown from jewels and cardboard," said Shifke.

The star of the exhibit is a dress designed by Anne Lowe, an African American designer brought to Tampa after noticing her incredible dressmaking skills.

"It was said, if you were on the Gasparilla court and you were not wearing an Anne Lowe dress, you may as well not show up," said Shifke.

Lowewent from designing gowns for the court of Gasparilla to the person perhaps is as close as it gets to American royalty.

"Anne Lowe became so famous she opened a studio in New York City and eventually designed Jacqueline B. Kennedy's wedding gown," said Shifke.

This exhibit is here to show you there's much more to Gasparilla than you may think andshould beno surprise that generations from now, the celebrations of today will find a place here too.

The Gasparilla Exhibit will be on display at the Henry B. Plant Museum at the University of Tampa through February 17th.

It is open Tuesdays-Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sundays from noon to 5 p.m. Tickets to the museum are $10 and $7 for students.

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