TAMPA, Fla. — The biggest draw to Gasparilla is the iconic parade. Staged as a pirate invasion along Tampa’s Bayshore Boulevard, hundreds of thousands come here to be a part of it.
The people on the floats are primarily members or friends of people who are part of a Krewe.
For krewe members, Gasparilla is more than the festivities you see that day, it’s about work in the community.
The first Gasparilla Krewe known as Ye Mystic Krewe, was founded more than a century ago in 1904. They host both the children’s and the adult parades on Bayshore.
There’s also a night parade which takes place two weeks after in Ybor City and that’s hosted by a different krewe; The Krewe of Sant’Yago. It’s the third oldest Krewe in Tampa Bay and while Gasparilla may be known for its pirates, this group of men dressed as knights, play a big part in the tradition as well.
Founded in 1972, the Krewe of the Knights of Sant’ Yago started with five men wanting to honor Tampa and Ybor City’s Rich Latin heritage and culture. It’s a history Ray Favata grew up in. His grandfather, Joe Granda, was the seventh king crowned in 1979.
“There's a lot of fathers, sons, uncles, and nephews,” Favata said.
This year marks 50 years for the Knights of Sant’Yago. It’s extra special for Favata as the newly crowned King. The King is known as El Rey. The Queen is known as El Reina.
“I was little page when I was younger. During the parades we didn't throw beads back then. I remember we had coins," Favata said. "Back in the old day it was coins, and the pirates would shoot the guns and drop the shells and we had paper streamers.”
A lot has changed overtime, but many traditions remain. With more than 250 men as members of the Krewe today, one of their biggest focuses is philanthropy.
Krewe President, Gene Cabrera, says proceeds from the work they do all year long goes into an education foundation for the community. Since its establishment in 1994, it has donated nearly $3 million for college scholarships.
“We give over 900 scholarships to the Bay Area, over $4 million,” Cabrera said.
The Krewe is also known for hosting iconic Krewe of the Knights of Sant’ Yago Knight Parade on 7th Ave in Historic Ybor City.
“Our Knight parade is the largest illuminated parade in the southeast," Cabrera said. "There are about 120 floats that will be part of that. It's a great time.”
The fruits of the labor of this generation and of the original five founding members with a vision to give back and be included in a community event, that now includes everyone.