Pirates join Ravens, Giants in storming Tampa
Updated: Saturday January 27, 2001 6:48 PM
TAMPA, Fla. (AP) -- The Ravens and the Giants weren't the only ones to storm Tampa. On the eve of the Super Bowl, bawdy, scarred-face pirates, hundreds strong, invaded from the sea and lay siege to the city in the annual Gasparilla festival.
An armada of boats from tugs to cabin cruisers surrounded the pirate ship Jose Gasparilla as it sailed unchallenged up the Hillsborough River and docked in the shadows of Tampa's skyline.
Cannons blasted as the pirates in garish dress with feather plumes in their hats and swords on their hip prepared for a mock invasion.
As the colorful motley crews barreled ashore, the mayor, as has been the tradition for more than nine decades, surrendered the city without a fight.
That signaled the start of the pirate festival, a cousin to Mardi Gras, with parades, floats, concerts, feasts and coveted beads -- thousands of gaily colored strands hurled by marchers along a three mile waterfront parade route.
The weeklong festival usually is held in February, but was pushed up this year to coincide with Super Bowl.
Pam Slunt of Baltimore was among the hundreds of thousands of spectators lining the parade route along winding Bayshore Boulevard. She left home at 4 a.m. Saturday and planned to watch the championship game on television at a restaurant with other Ravens fans.
"It's pretty crazy, awesome. Ravens fans everywhere," she said, adding that boosters are looking to quarterback Trent Dilfer to make the difference. "We've got confidence in Trent."
For Dennis Murphy, from Baltimore, it was his first trip to Tampa and his first Super Bowl. He won tickets in a Ravens lottery. "I cut a ski trip short to come here. It's fantastic. I never thought it would be this great," he said as tanked pirates partied, shooting pistol blanks in the air.
Noreen Marcus, 49, who lives in Miami and is an assistant city editor at the South Florida Sun-Sentinel in Fort Lauderdale came to Tampa -- ironically -- to flee the Super Bowl.
Her husband, Joe, is a rabid football fan. "I prefer this kind of madness," she said. "By the time this is over, the football season will be over and my year will begin."
Paradegoers came on foot, riding scooters, pushing baby carriages, and in limousines. Along the route were tents where people could buy anything from souvenirs to cotton candy to turkey legs.
In the skies, the Air Force's stealth bomber and the Thunderbirds made passes, planes trailed advertising banners, and blimps and helicopters circled.