LIFESTYLE

Gasparilla: Pirate Invasion of Tampa Leaves 350 Arrests, Thousands of Hang-overs

Arrrrrrrrrgh! Put away your eye-patches and swords, the Gasparilla pirate celebration in Tampa is over.  

The annual weekend party in Florida saw big crowds in 2011 and less debauchery than normal as local police officers over-prepared for the mayhem.

Reports out of Tampa say 350 pirate wannabes were arrested for their debauchery. This number is down from over 400 last year.  

Over 350,000 people gave their best Jack Sparrow impressions in the pirate festival parade in downtown Tampa.

The annual parade was led by Actor Jim Belushi, star of the ABC sitcom According to Jim.

The celebration featured an entire parade, floats, drinking, and more all for the sake of the legendary Spanish pirate Jose "Gasparilla" Gaspar.

The legend of the supposed Spanish pirate captain who operated in southwest Florida has been celebrated in Tampa for over one hundred years. More than half a million people descend on the shores of Tampa Bay to take part in a week of custumes, debauchery, and beer that can only be compared to an eye-patch-filled Mardi Gras.

Gasparilla can best be described as a mock invasion of the city where pirates sail into Tampa Bay on a full-scale pirate ship, named the Jose Gaspar, and accept the surrender of Tampa from the mayor. This surrender of the city culminates into a half million people giving in to a memorable weekend (or not so memorable for the heavy drinkers).

So who is this Jose Gasparilla? Why do hundreds of thousands go out of their way to pay homage to a pirate?

The pirate is known as the last of the Buccaneers who terrorized the waters of West Florida during the late 18th and 19th centuries.   Legend has it that when the ruthless pirate died, he left an untold fortune in buried treasure somewhere along the Florida coast.  

The treasure was never discovered, but he was adopted as a rogue patron to what is considered the city's most powerful social organization today, known as the "Ye Mystic Krewe of Gasparilla."

The real truth is no one can really tell you who he truly was or why the celebration takes place.  The bottom line is America has found another reason to party. 

Bryan Llenas currently serves as a New York-based correspondent for Fox News Channel (FNC). Click here for more information on Bryan Llenas. Follow him on Twitter @BryanLlenas.