Gasparilla Makes Me Want to Walk the Plank

Gasparilla invading Tampa once again.


Photo Jack Charles

Fish killed unnaturally, ecocide.

Vikram Sambasivan, News Editor

Festivals are representative of the culture of an area. They are based on some historical context and they are something unique to the cities where they take place. Then there is Gasparilla. 

Based on a fictional pirate invading the city of Tampa, Gasparilla is essentially an excuse for people to come to Tampa to get drunk, high, and cracked out on drugs for an entire day. Especially with the parade being canceled in 2021 due to COVID-19 concerns, 2022 Gasparilla is expected to be the biggest one yet. 

Imagine the population of a city doubling overnight for one party-filled weekend. Sounds great right? Wrong. What most people see about Gasparilla is the propaganda spread by the city and businesses that profit off of it. The other, less-mentioned attributes of Gasparilla are the ones that have a lasting effect. 

One of the biggest issues is the environmental damage caused by the parade. Being a city that has bays and rivers flowing throughout, the insane amount of litter created by Gasparilla is detrimental to marine life. Plastic beads, a staple of Gasparilla, are hurled off large ships, many of which land in the water, fated to strangle a fish and pollute Tampa’s beautiful ecosystems. The increased strain on resources because of 300,o00 additional people coming to party, pollutes the air. The smoke caused solely by people vaping and smoking weed, coupled with billowing cannon smoke and random fires started by drunken crowds is enough to create a dense smog.

Secondly, there is the traffic. An extra 300,000 people flowing into a city along with a parade causes massive traffic. There are road closures, car accidents, ambulances, drunk/high pedestrians milling about unaware of their surroundings and drunk drivers causing safety hazards on the road. The traffic and unsafe conditions get so bad that I don’t even leave my house during the adult parade. 

On top of the traffic, there is the public disturbance of the whole parade. I am woken up by cannon shots at 7 a.m.. Boats clog up the bay and await the parade. Drunk people without any inhibitions vandalize private property, urinate on lawns, break into houses, set fires, and more. In past years, many houses on Bayshore were broken into and stolen from (including having their pantries raided by drunk partiers). 

Arguably the most important of these reasons is the complete lack of care for public safety is terrifying. With a COVID-19 spike in the form of the Omicron variant, the logic of having a huge parade that encourages drugs and alcohol (there are even volunteer opportunities to hand out alcohol to party-goers) is incredibly unwise and dangerous to the health of many. 

This year of Gasparilla reminds me of the early years of the industrial revolution with respect to safety (or lack thereof) in urban areas. Mass migration to cities (Tampa doubling the size of its population) caused unsafe living conditions and lots of death due to inadequate infrastructure and widespread disease. One of the few differences between the two is that our mass migration will lead to a few ODs, some cases of alcohol poisoning, an innumerable amount of DUIs and pollution of our ecosystem, not a world-changing revolution.