General Rich McKay (left) and Executive Vice President Bryan Glazer ride on the lead float in Saturday's Gasparilla Day Parade
Pirates invaded Tampa again on Saturday when the city held its Gasparilla Day Parade through the streets of downtown. Though this highly-anticipated annual event, recreated each year by Ye Mystic Krewe of Gasparilla, always has a swashbuckling theme, that was even more evident in 2003 thanks to another conquering crew.
The very first float in the parade featured the Super Bowl XXXVII Champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Shaped like the pirate ship in the north end zone of Raymond James Stadium, the lead float carried a Buccaneer contingent that featured honorary Grand Marshals Bryan and Joel Glazer, along with Joel's wife, Angela, General Manager Rich McKay, WR Karl Williams and C/G Todd Washington.
On this day of buccaneer invasion, Pewter Pirates ruled the day.
"It's been a great week for us, with the Super Bowl victory last weekend and Gasparilla today," said Bryan Glazer, Buccaneers Executive Vice President. "Being part of this is so much fun. The community has been great and we're going to have a great time today."
Before the parade began, Bryan, Joel, Rich, Karl and Todd all mingled with Buccaneers fans, signing autographs, shaking hands and accepting congratulations for their convincing Super Bowl victory over the Oakland Raiders last week.
"It's been an unbelievable week," echoed Executive Vice President Joel Glazer. "Our fans are the best, and day-in and day-out (the Super Bowl win) seems to get bigger and bigger. Now we're here at Gasparilla, and that's the biggest event of them all."
As the parade began with the Buccaneer float leading the way, the Vince Lombardi Trophy was held aloft and cheers of joy swept through the crowd. The fans that lined Bayshore with signs of "Pound the Rock," "We Love the Bucs," and "Thank You Bucs," seemed to forget that the Buccaneers had already been treated to a victory parade on Tuesday. A good portion of Gasparilla was used to show even more support for the hometown team.
Closely following the initial Buccaneers float was the TECO Energy float featuring Tampa Bay Buccaneers Cheerleaders Lakesha Bennett, Tammy Denbo, Jessica Diaz, Kayla Drawdy, Andrea Gordillo, Kim Giacinto, Mark Petentler, Patrick Thomas, Carrie Riley, Kelly Knight, Angel Haywood, Amy Fleck, Leigh Vollmer and Hope Michaels. Throughout the parade, the TECO float played music while the cheerleaders performed for the crowd.
Cameras snapped and the camcorders rolled as the Buccaneer floats passed by, with boats pulling close to the shoreline to get a good look and possibly catch some overthrown beads.
All along Bayshore Boulevard, in the streets, in the buildings, on the parking garages and in the trees, Buccaneers t-shirts, hats, jerseys and signs dotted the landscape, overpowering any other type of regalia, save for the festive Gasparilla beads distributed to the crowd from the floats.
"This one might be the biggest celebration yet," said GM Rich McKay, who was witnessed many Gasparilla parades. "Obviously, it's Gasparilla's Day, but the Bucs will be in a lot of people's hearts and this is a lot of fun."
As the Buccaneers reached the end of the parade, Williams couldn't believe the fan turnout and the excitement the Buccaneers had caused in the city of Tampa.
"This is just amazing," said Williams. "I knew it was crazy on Monday and Tuesday, but all the Bucs fans out here today just blows me away."
The Bucs on hand Saturday were ready to do it all over again for the Gasparilla night parade on Saturday, February 15th.
"I had a great time today," said Washington. "And the fans can look forward to seeing us again in two weeks."