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Beads & Basketballs

The history of Gasparilla and inclusion of the Women's Final Four in the Gasparilla Children's Parade.

Local youth basketball girls ride in style with the NCAA® Women's Basketball National Championship trophy.

Smile for the camera! My experience at the Gasparilla Children’s Parade included capturing photos and walking alongside the NCAA® Women’s Final Four® convertible sports car. I enjoyed watching the faces of both kids and adults light up when they received colorful bead necklaces. Along the parade route, children dressed in pirate costumes and waved Jolly Roger flags. The community came together to celebrate an event the whole family enjoys.

Gasparilla is an event that has impacted the Tampa Bay community for 115 years. It all started from the legendary pirate named Jose Gaspar who was famous for terrorizing the coastal waters of West Florida during the late 18th and early 19th centuries. After Jose Gaspar died, the legend began claiming he left a large amount of buried treasure which has still never been found.

The Gasparilla celebration includes more than 100 parade floats along Bayshore Boulevard in the Children’s Gasparilla Extravaganza, 750 mighty pirates go ashore to invade Tampa in the Gasparilla Pirate Fest, and for 45 years the Krewe of Sant’Yago has hosted the Sant'Yago Knight Parade. Other experiences include the opportunity to go the distance in the Gasparilla Distance Classic, celebrate the arts at the Gasparilla Festival of the Arts, enjoy the entertainment at Gasparilla Music Festival and Gasparilla International Film Festival, and go back in time at the Gasparilla Concours D’Elegance.

After two successful NCAA® Women’s Basketball Final Four events, the Tampa Bay area is honored to host for the third time on April 5 & 7 at Amalie Arena. While we were walking in the parade, I heard someone say, “WOW I did not know the Women’s Final Four® was coming to Tampa!” The ability to share information about this event with the community during Gasparilla is absolutely amazing.

Before the parade, I interviewed Claire Lessinger, Director of Special Events for the Tampa Bay Sports Commission. She said, “It is our goal for these major events to come in and not only give our community the opportunity to see the premier Final Four teams play for the National Championship, but make sure we are creating a fan experience, a student-athlete experience, and a visitor experience like no other.”

Learn more about Gasparilla by visiting and the NCAA Women’s Final Four and its events at

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