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2021 Gasparilla parades officially canceled due to COVID-19

Posted at 10:10 AM, Feb 16, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-16 18:20:49-05

The 2021 Gasparilla parades have officially been canceled due to COVID-19.

It was previously announced that the parades would be postponed, but now they are being canceled altogether for this year.

The pirates of Ye Mystic Krewe of Gasparilla (YMKG) made the call to cancel Tampa's signature Gasparilla Parades planned for April 10 and April 17. The decision resulted from an ongoing dialogue between event organizers, city leaders, and healthcare experts.

"We hoped to safely and effectively hold Children's Gasparilla presented by Chick-fil-A Tampa Bay and Seminole Hard Rock Gasparilla Pirate Fest, but believe it is our community's best interest to refrain from hosting festivities this year," said Ye Mystic Krewe of Gasparilla Captain Peter Lackman. "The pirate invasion will continue in 2022, with the excitement and revelry that Tampa Bay has come to know and love."

Lackman explained they considered all the possible options they had available, but unfortunately, he says there was no safe option, so they had to cancel. Lackman says if you look to Gasparilla in years past, you wouldn't see people socially distanced six feet apart. Unlike other events, Lackman says they don't have gates where they can take certain measures like checking temperatures.

"There’s a lot of celebration. There’s a lot of drinking. There’s a lot of partying going on. There’s a lot of hugging and kissing and all sorts of crazy stuff," said Lackman. "The Krewe of Gasparilla can’t be responsible for 100,000 folks out there promising to keep their six feet because that’s never happened before.”

Gasparilla has a massive financial footprint outside of the festivities. Lackman explained they weighed safety concerns, saying the challenges are overwhelming at this time.

“People who come from out of town and fill up our hotel rooms, fill up our restaurants, none of that will be happening this year," said Lackman. "The impact of Gasparilla is a $40 to $50 million a year impact, and this year, we’re not going to get that impact, so we take our decision very, very seriously and worked our hardest and waited our longest to make the final decision, but we have made that final decision.”

YMKG says cannons will boom once again at Children's Gasparilla presented by Chick-fil-A Tampa Bay on Saturday, January 22, 2022, and the Seminole Hard Rock Gasparilla Pirate Fest on Saturday, January 29, 2022. The closing event, Ye Mystic Krewe of Gasparilla's Outbound Voyage, will set sail on Saturday, February 26, 2022.

Tampa Mayor Jane Castor released a statement:

“We have worked with Ye Mystic Krewe of Gasparilla, EventFest and other community stakeholders to try and determine a safe way to host up to a half of a million scallywags along the Gasparilla invasion and parade routes. Alas, there was no secret treasure map containing the golden solution, so the Krewe made the decision, in the best interest of our community, to cancel this year’s festivities.

Now we have more time here at the City of Tampa to batten down the hatches and roll out the cannons, as there is little doubt those ne’er do well pirates will be after more than the key to the city next year! We will never surrender Lord Stanley or Sir Lombardi!”

Tickets for the 2021 Children's Gasparilla and Gasparilla Pirate Fest are eligible for a refund, or ticket purchasers can elect to roll over a credit on their account to 2022 festivities. Ticket holders who choose to keep the credit on their account will receive an additional 15% bonus in value that can be used towards the purchase of tickets or merchandise. Ticket holders can also opt to donate the value of their tickets to the Ye Mystic Krewe of Gasparilla Community Fund, which supports scholarships for exceptional high school seniors in the Tampa Bay area, community food programs, and more. Ticket holders will receive further information by email or can contact or (813) 251-8844.

This year's cancellation of Gasparilla festivities is not the first in event history. Over the past 107 years, parades were not held for numerous reasons, including when the city had limited public celebrations or during wartimes.