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Gasparilla parades postponed to April due to COVID-19 pandemic

Organizers said the move is "out of an abundance of caution" amid the pandemic.

TAMPA, Fla. — The iconic Gasparilla parades will not set sail on their usual dates in 2021.

Instead, organizers said the children's parade and the Gasparilla Pirate Fest will be pushed to mid-April "out of an abundance of caution" during the coronavirus pandemic.

"We always had a Plan B," Ye Mystic Krewe of Gasparilla Captain Peter Lackman said. “We want to have a great event that people are comfortable coming out to and are out there to have a good time and the size of the crowd won’t matter to them.”

The Children's Gasparilla Presented by Chick-fil-A will be Saturday, April 10, 2021. The Seminole Hard Rock Gasparilla Pirate Fest will be Saturday, April 17, 2021.

The final Gasparilla event, Ye Mystic Krewe of Gasparilla's Outbound Voyage, will be Friday, May 14, 2021.

Organizers said the decision to postpone the historic parades came from an "ongoing dialogue between event organizers, city leaders, and healthcare experts."

Visit Tampa Bay CEO Santiago Corrada said it's the right move even though it's disappointing. But it could be worse.

"We’re just very grateful that it’s not canceled altogether," Corrada said. "Postponement isn’t such a bad thing."

Corrada says the months of January through May are busy anyway so, "we’re just going to prolong the fun."

In the meantime, some struggling businesses counting on the big event are hoping they can hold on that long.

"We are working as hard as we can to stay in business," said Anne Bartlett, owner of the South Tampa Trading Company. Her store specializes in beads and pirate costumes but jumped into the mask-making market several months ago to salvage sales.

Bartlett, who agrees it was the right decision to postpone to keep people safe, says she's hopeful people won't wait to get their pirate gear.

"Do things like preorder beads or update your costumes," she suggested.

"I'll tell you the businesses that are associated with Gasparilla have really been holding on for Gasparilla so the fact it's pushed back three more months is definitely going to be a challenge for us."

Tickets for the children's parade and the Pirate Fest are on sale now through GasparillaTreasures.com. Tickets already purchased for the original dates will be honored for the new dates in April. Anyone with questions about ticket availability or refunds can email office@eventfest.com.

This isn't the first time Gasparilla festivities have been postponed or not held at all. Over the past 107 years of the celebration, the parades were not held for various reasons, including limited public activities and during wartime.

The parade along Bayshore Boulevard in Tampa attracts about 500,000 people every year, one of the largest in the country. Tampa has been holding the event since 1904, and many locals have been celebrating the legend of local pirate Jose Gaspar for generations.

Gasparilla had a bumpy start in the early 1900s, as it frequently shifted dates and went on hiatus during World War I and World War II. In 1990, the city planned to move the parade up a few weeks because of Super Bowl XXV. The city and the NFL pressured Ye Mystic Krewe to finally let in African American members, but the organization refused and canceled Gasparilla.

Gasparilla isn't just two parades -- there are several months of festivities. Organizers on Monday did not specify if any other Gasparilla events would be postponed. 

10 Tampa Bay's Josh Sidorowicz contributed to this report.

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