Pirates invade Tampa for annual Gasparilla festival

TAMPA, FL (WFLA/WCMH) – Yarr! The pirates of Ye Mystic Krewe of Gasparilla have invaded Tampa.

More than 300,000 people are expected to turn out for the annual parade. Ye Mystic Krewe of Gasparilla re-enacts the historic invasion of Tampa by mythical pirate Jose Gaspar.

During the re-enactment, pirates aboard the Jose Gasparilla ship sail across Tampa Bay to downtown Tampa.

Once the ship lands, the captain demands that the mayor hand over the “key to the city” in a playful ceremony.

Whether or not the mayor surrenders, the pirates later hold a parade to celebrate their victory through the streets of Tampa.

It’s an event that presents unique security concerns.

“We’re going to put on an amazing show, and I will tell you in no uncertain terms, security is our highest priority,” said Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn.

Terrorist attacks around the world have created new security challenges for the event.

In Nice, France a terrorist used a truck to kill innocent people at a Bastille Day celebration.

In Boston, bombers used backpacks to deliver a deadly explosion.

Those events are on the minds of those planning for Gasparilla.

“Each one of those incidents has been evaluated, and we tend to focus on the lessons learned, and we implement things in practice here to prevent those type of incidents happening in Tampa,” said Buckhorn.

Tampa Police Chief Eric Ward is in charge of making sure the event is safe and fun for all.

“If you drive the route, you will see things in places that were not there last year. Our ultimate goal is to have the parade goers enjoy the event, collect a lot of beads and go home safely,” said Ward.

The police chief is also warning drone pilots to leave their drones at home.

“Unless they’ve been through the FAA and gotten approval to fly, they shouldn’t be flying drones in this area. We have a large crowd and there is always a risk to the public that you are going to lose some type of connectivity to that drone and it’s going to fall from the sky and damage or hurt someone on the parade route,” said Ward.

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