THE 2017 GASPARILLA PIRATE INVASION AND PARADE OF PIRATES FROM TAMPA
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THE 2017 GASPARILLA PIRATE INVASION AND PARADE OF PIRATES FROM TAMPA

Ahoy, Matees! If you can't make it to Gasparilla this is the next best thing. You can follow all of the action from the Gasparilla Pre-Invasion to the Parade of Pirates along Tampa's Bayshore Boulevard on Jan. 28. Just scroll through the photos and posts. And if you're going? Turn your smartphone camera on your friends and all the craziness. Use the tag #GasparillaGram for your photos, and you'll be a part of this fun compilation. (Keep it SFW, though!)

    Combat-wounded veteran Joel Tavera, left, with Joe and Jaye Maddon.
     

    Cub skipper Maddon is a pirate today

     

    You never know who you'll run into along the Gasparilla parade route.
     
    To Joe Maddon, Tampa restaurant owner and manager of the World Series champion Chicago Cubs, ending a 108-year-old drought had nothing to do with curses or bad luck.
     
    "It wasn't about black cats or goats or fans reaching over for foul balls," Maddon said. "It's all about playing good baseball."
     
    Dressed in pirate garb, Maddon -- who with his wife Jaye still has a home on Bayshore Boulevard -- did acknowledge the historic significance of the Cubs victory over the Cleveland Indians.
     
    "The burden has been lifted," he said. 
     
    But that doesn't mean the Cubs or their fans should be complacent.
     
    "We want them to have expectations."
     
    As for the team, no wallowing in victory allowed.
     
    Said Maddon, "I just want us to be uncomfortable."
     
    - Howard Altman 
    Heather Motro and a spooked Earthquake.
     

    Cannons chase home one dog, one child

     
    An hour into the parade, 9-year-old Earthquake the dog is ready to go home.
     
    "The cannons are getting to him," said owner Joe Motro.
     
    The same goes for 7-year-old Paul Lanza. Last week was his first Gasparilla Kids Parade and he had so much fun his parents wanted him to try the adult version.
     
    No dice. The crowd and beer don't bother him but the gunfire does.
     
    "It's louder here than last week," said dad Scott, 30. "We tell him the guns are fake but I don't think he gets it. We're leaving soon."
     
    - Paul Guzzo

    Anticipation gives way to excitement

     

    By 1:30 p.m. the Clydesdales pulling the Budweiser wagon seemed antsy to get the parade started, bucking their heads and stepping in place.
     
    Across street, a crowd of revelers echoed that feeling, cheering for a private party along Bayshore Boulevard to toss them beads and racing after them once they did.
     
    Not everyone was in a hurry.
     
    James Wellington, 22, said today is a marathon and not a sprint and that's how he likes it.
     
    "This is best day of the year," Wellington said."I don't want it to end"
     
    But when the parade began a little after 2, with law enforcement leading the way and sponsor Hard Rock Casino raining beads upon the crowd, Wellington grew excited.
     
    Then puzzled at his excitement.
     
    "I want all the beads, then toss them away as soon as I'm home. Whatever. It's Gasparilla."
     
    - Paul Guzzo
    A Buffalo family didn't know what to expect at their first Gasparilla.
     

    Cockatoos again, to Buffalo kids' delight

     

    Tony Duran, 30, stood along the parade route with his children bundled up, ready to catch beads. 

    The family recently moved to Brandon from Buffalo, so his 5-year-old and 3-year-old were prepared to deal with Saturday's chill. 

    Big brother David didn't know what to expect from his first Gasparilla parade other than "pirates" and "beads." 

    His younger brother Antonio sat on his dad's shoulders, eager to see the floats start coming through. 

    He was soon distracted by Casey Uhlmeyer, another Gasparilla newbie. But the 20-year-old Eckerd College student came prepared with her 10-month-old cockatoo, Valentine. 

    "I bring her everywhere," said the Missouri native. 

    Valentine, on a leash, posed on the kids' arms as Duran snapped photos on his phone. 

    Not bad for their first Gasparilla. 

    - Sara DiNatale

     

    Casey Uhlmeyer takes her cockatoos everywhere -- and now, to the Gasparilla parade.
     

    Where to take the cockatoos? Where else?

     

    Everywhere 20-year-old Casey Uhlmeyer, goes, Buoy and Valentine the cockatoos go with her. 
     
    Uhlmeyer is a student at Eckerd College and takes her avian charges all over, from the farmers market to classes.
     
    She thought they would enjoy preening their feathers surrounded by pirates.
     
    Buoy just wants to eat french fries, his favorite snack. He stands on one leg, delicately nibbling the fry from the other, and waits until Uhlmeyer isn't looking to sneak another one.
     
    - Libby Baldwin
     
    Brian White wasn't about to let friend Brandon Garcia miss Gasparilla.
     

    Broken toe? MacDill friends use wheels

     

    Navigating the crowds at Gasparilla is hard enough.
     
    Brandon Garcia, 41, had to do it while pushing his friend Brian White, 31, in a wheelchair.
     
    White broke his toe and had surgery a few weeks ago but both men are stationed at MacDill Air Force Base so never know when they'll be transferred.
     
    They might not be here for the next parade, after the toe is healed.
     
    "You don't want to miss the fun," Garcia said. "I couldn't let him miss it. He's worth it."
     
    The best part for White: Garcia is his boss
     
    "He's working for me today," White quipped.
     
    - Paul Guzzo
     
     

    "Watching the crazy" on Bayshore Blvd.

    Three young men dressed as pirates have an impromptu push-up contest in the street outside of Javier Torrealeay's Bayshore Boulevard condo half a block from Bay To Bay Properties.

    "I enjoy living here so I can watch the crazy," the 67-year-old said. "Reminds me of when I was young."

    He's lived in Tampa for 20 years and on Bayshore for two.

    "I don't like all the trash," he said, "but city cleans it up fast. It's only once a year, so I have fun and don't worry."
     
                                                                                                     - Paul Guzzo
     

    Scantily-clad pirates and theater patrons hit the streets near the Straz 

    TPD officer Neipert has been watching over the end of the parade route for hours already.

    "I've got the easiest gig today," he said. "I just have to watch over the disbanding and get a few folks to the Straz."

    There are two showings of Cabaret at the Straz Center today, and while driving in I saw a group of well-dressed older ladies holding hands crossing Ashley Dr., just trying to get to the theater and through all of the hubbub.

    Officer Neipert commented that he has already seen some female parade attendees shivering in what is basically their skivvies, and wondered why they would dress that way when the high will barely crack 60 degrees for the day.

    "Just put on a sweater and have a beer!"

                                                                                                                - Libby Baldwin

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