“Tampa – 3-day Weekend – Continued”
Arriving at Tampa Airport I am picked up by my host, Richard Sanchez. Richard is one of those quiet really smart people, who I personally love to be around. If Richard ever slowed down to enjoy a game like chess, he would be a grand master, he is always thinking 5 steps ahead.
Richard has arranged for all of us to stay at the Marriot downtown, where we can get to and from all the Gasparilla Festivities on foot. Especially good for me because I had sprained my left ankle that morning while teaching class at Goucher and the plane trip had only made it swell up even more.
After checking in at the Hotel we all met down in the lobby for a drink and then it was off to Hockey Game across the street. Yep, Hockey in Florida, for my friends up north, what can I tell you. The Lightning are former Stanley Cup winners and the rink and the fans are both really great. The fact that it only gets below freezing maybe 10 days out of the year, go figure!
Next day Saturday, we met in the lobby. The meeting was run by Elizabeth (Buffy) Price. Buffy, who is Sharon Sanchez’s right hand on the Gaspar Ballet steering Committee is incredibly organized and had our entire day planned out. Complete with passes, tickets and maps. we headed over for brunch across the street again to the Convention Center. It is a delight to work with organized people. We even had neck passes that said, “Ask me about the Gaspar Ballet?”.
So, off we go to the convention center were we meet lots of people and have a wonderful Brunch. Did I mention that people attending the Gasparilla Festival like to dress up as Pirates and Pirate Wenches and the drinking starts at breakfast? Okay, well it does. Making socialization at lot easier at that hour. Nuff, Said!
From the balcony of the convention center we all watch as the Flagship of the Gasparilla Festival, The “Jose Gaspar” enters the harbor and lands below us at the convention center dock. The harbor during all this ceremony was filled with other pirate ships along with other vessels ranging from million dollar yachts to small motorboats. The firing of cannons seems to be as often and as random as firecrackers on the 4th of July and the harbor is filled with a dense smoke from these pyrotechnics. I don’t envy the harbor police whose job is to keep a lot of drunken merry makers from running into each other in the water. We now watch as at least 600 of Tampa’s finest community leaders, all dressed as pirates disembark from the “Jose Gaspar” ship. The Captain of the ship is met by the Mayor of Tampa who surrenders to the Captain and gives him the ceremonial key to the city. This ceremony has gone on for at least a hundred years, it may seem strange to outsiders but so are many traditions in many places. Have you ever tried to figure out the “Mummers Parade” in Philadelphia or the St. Patrick’s parade in your own hometown or any number local of celebrations anywhere in America. We like to celebrate and love ceremonies. My thought was, “Hey, it’s better than cow tipping”.
I’ll write more tomorrow about the rest of my trip and for those of you who would like to find out more information about this production and the valuable charities that it supports. If you are on Face Book go to “Gaspar Ballet – a Pirate Fantasy”