If you’ve been keeping up with Smith & Associate Real Estate’s 10 part series, “100 Things You Need to Know About Gasparilla”, then you’re up-to-date on the legend of Jose Gaspar, and you’ve got your calendar marked for the Children’s Parade and the Gasparilla Invasion. For part three of our series, we’d like to give you a glimpse into the history of Tampa Bay’s pirate parade. Here are 10 Things You Need to Know About the first Gasparilla:
1| Although Ye Mystic Krewe of Gasparilla is celebrating their 100th Royal Court, which is the inspiration behind this series, the parade actually began in 1904. When the pirates take to Bayshore in January, the Gasparilla tradition will be 110 years old.
2| The tradition began when Mary Louise Dodge, society editor of the Tampa Tribune, wanted a way to turn Tampa’s annual May Day Festival into a much larger event. She was brainstorming themes, when as fate would have it, her friend George W. Hardee dropped by to see her. George was returning from a trip to Charlotte Harbor where he had been captivated by the legend of Jose.
3| George was originally from Mardi Gras and has seen the ends and outs of the workings of their festival. You had to know our parade had Big Easy roots.
4| The first Krewe formed in secret, at Mary Louise’s request. You know what it’s like to be planning something incredible and want to keep it under-wraps until you’re ready to announce it’s happening, right? At first, Charles M. Davis and Robert S. Carnes were the only other people who knew about plans for the parade.
5| George, Charles, and Robert met in secret with Tampa Bay community leaders. When the Ye Mystic Krewe was 50 gentlemen strong, they announced the coming of the royal descendents of Prince Gasparilla.
6| The announcement was made via a letter addressed to the Tampa Tribune’s City Editor, Ed Lambright. The letter appeared on the first page of the newspaper on April 23rd 1904. The letter was written by George W. Hardee who signed it, Lord High Chamberlain Guardian of the Panther Key.
7| The letter told that the pirating done by Prince Gasparilla and his men had merely been pranks that merchant marines had misunderstood. When Prince Gasparilla grew weary of his adventures, he retired from the seas and established his kingdom. Now, the letter said, the King, descended from Prince Gasparilla, his courtiers and trusted knights would be coming to Tampa’s May Day Festival. The letter warned that opposing the entrance of Gasparilla’s men would be futile.
8| More letters followed every few days. By the time the May Day celebration came, Tampa was ready for Gasparilla’s royal descendants to arrive.
9| The first pirates rode on horseback into Tampa, on May 4th, 1904. They wore masks and silk costumes rented from New Orleans. A red and green royal carriage joined the parade, but King Gasparilla I, Edward R. Gunby was not on board. He had sent George Fuchs as his substitute. This is the only case in the history of the parade where YMKG’s king did not lead his men as they invaded Tampa.
10| Two days after the invasion, the Ye Mystic Krewe of Gasparilla held their first Coronation Ball at the Tampa Bay Hotel’s dining room (now known as Fletcher Lounge at the University of Tampa). Mary Lee Douglas was one of the ladies who spent the day decorating for the festivities. She was crowned Queen Gasparilla I later that night.
Source: Ye Mystic Krewe of Gasparilla: The First 100 Years, 1904 – 2004