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Grab ye pirate hat and krewe! Here’s what you need to know for Gasparilla 2022

While most people think of the Parade of Pirates when talking about Gasparilla, there’s a whole lot more to the two-month celebration.

TAMPA, Fla. — Picture this: It’s the 1700’s, the age of pirates. Famed pirate Jose Gaspar is roaming the Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico in search of treasure and riches to plunder. That’s when he comes across the treasure that is the city of Tampa.

Okay, not really.

While there’s no legitimate evidence to back up that Jose Gaspar was a real pirate several hundred years ago, he has nonetheless become a household name in Tampa.

In the early 1900s, several people, including an editor from the Tampa Tribune, were figuring out a way to promote Tampa’s May Day celebration. Through secret meetings, the group planned a mock pirate invasion on Tampa, but it was all going to be one big surprise. These meetings would later form the group, Ye Mystic Krewe of Gasparilla.

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In 1904, with costumes rented from New Orleans, the first Krewe stormed the streets of Tampa on horseback and “captured the city.”

It would be several more years before a ship was brought into the picture, but in 1911, Ye Mystic Krewe sailed into the bay. In the 1930s, the Krewe took it up a notch, using an authentic pirate ship. It was named the Jose Gasparilla I.

Over the years, it developed into a two-month celebration kicking off with the invasion of Tampa. It has grown into the third-largest parade in the U.S., attracting more than 300,000 onlookers.

While most people think of the Parade of Pirates when talking about Gasparilla, the celebration is actually made up of several different parades and other activities like a music festival, art festival, and even a marathon.

RELATED: The history of Gasparilla: Tampa's unique pirate invasion fest

On the second-to-last Saturday in January, Gasparilla kicks off with its children’s parade.

It’s meant to be family-friendly, with kid-oriented activities and a parade along Bayshore Boulevard. Alcohol is also prohibited during the event. At the children’s parade, you’ll see hundreds of floats, and it’s a great chance to collect all those treasure beads to wear.

The week after that, the last Saturday in January is the Pirate Festival. It is definitely a sight to see, especially if you can get a view from Davis Islands or Harbour Island.

RELATED: What's the Gasparilla parade route?

As the Jose Gasparilla makes its way into the bay with a “shipload of pirates” on board, residents defending their city will launch all kinds of boats, and pretty much any type of watercraft you can imagine to stop the pirate invasion.

As they meet the invading pirates, legend has it that Jose Gaspar’s mystical aura is too much for defending ships, causing them to join forces with the pirates. Then, the Jose Gasparilla, along with more than 1,000 boats, make their way toward downtown Tampa.

With a city left defenseless, pirates take over to plunder the treasure, demanding the key to the city from Mayor Castor.

If you plan to go to the parades, be sure to get there early. Don’t forget to wear ye finest pirate threads, and bring your own krewe, because what’s a pirate party without your mateys?

If you’re hooked, you can find more information about this unique experience here.