For most of us, the difficult decision to cancel this year‘s Gasparilla events means we don’t get to party like pirates until next year.
But for local businesses that rely on the annual festivities, the decision is a real blow.
“You know, it’s tough, it’s tough to take,” said Visit Tampa Bay CEO Santiago Corrada.
Gasparilla brings some very real treasures to the city of Tampa each year. There’s an estimated $22 million economic impact from the Parade of Pirates alone. Throw in the music and art festivals along with other events, and it’s closer to an estimated $40 million.
“When you have a 100-year tradition impacted it’s a hard pill to swallow,” said Corrada, “However you understand. You know, there’s understanding. People are trying to do the right thing with the hand of cards that they’re dealt.”
Jenn Amato is one of those hardest hit.
Her family’s business, Buccaneer Beads, sees about 75 percent of its annual income this time of year.
For months, they’d kept their fingers crossed as the date for Gasparilla approached. First, it was postponed. Now it’s canceled. An entire warehouse of 2021 parade beads and other items sits idle.
“It was devastating. It was devastating for us.” Said Amato. “Children’s, then Gasparilla. And then the night parade. You’re talking huge. Huge.”
The ripple effect spreads even further, to businesses already hurting from the pandemic.
For hotels and restaurants, it’s yet another tough blow as visitors cancel plans and reservations.
“They go out to eat beyond the day of the parade. They go out and buy things. They check out attractions. They do things here that they might not be able to do back home,” said Corrada.
Visit Tampa Bay says while losing Gasparilla this year is absolutely a tough pill to swallow, there are companies and organizations around the country looking to move their conventions here this year because of the way the region successfully handled the Super Bowl.
They hope that an unexpected influx of business will help offset some of the losses.
That would be welcomed news at places like the Head’s Flags store in South Tampa, where it’s been a not-so-jolly year for Jolly Roger sales.
They hope a recent social media push will gain traction. It encourages people to drape their homes in Gasparilla garb similar to what they did in New Orleans when Mardi Gras parades were canceled there.
“It’s better than nothing, that’s for sure,” said Head’s owner Tony Clayton. “And I think people can still have fun. And it’s nice to drive through the neighborhood and see Gasparilla wreaths out. Your pirate flags. Just - get the feeling of Tampa.”
Some businesses are even working with Gasparilla Krewes on innovative ways to help stay afloat.
But for now, the Jose Gasparilla stays docked downtown. No invasion. No parade. And unfortunately for many local businesses no treasure.
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