This city loves pirates. Since 1904, Tampa has reveled Jose Gaspar, "the last buccaneer." And every February, more than 400,000 people are drawn to this city and its waterways to partake in Gasparilla Pirate Fest. The festival has grown into a three-month long celebration making the pirate a permanent part of Tampa's culture and identity. Year-round swashbuckling events include the Gasparilla Distance Classic (5K to marathon), a children's parade, a night light festival, an art show, and of course, 16 weeks of the NFL's Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Legend has it that Gaspar, a former Spanish naval officer turned pirate, looted merchant ships while patrolling Florida's western shore during the late 18th and early 19th Centuries. This heartless tyrant is said to have captured over 400 vessels, killing the passengers and crew, and saving the "booty" for himself---both money and female. Gaspar flourished as a pirate until misidentifying the armed U.S.S. Enterprise as an unarmed merchant ship, losing his first, last, and only battle. Rather than surrendering, he tied himself to his boat's anchor and jumped overboard vowing to die on his own terms. His treasures are said to be buried in the Tampa area but have never been recovered.