If you grew up in Tampa, then Gasparilla may or may not be your favorite holiday. If you’re not from Tampa, then you’ve likely never heard of it. I’ve learned that the easiest way to describe Gasparilla is simply as Mardi Gras with pirates.

The event is based on the tale of José Gaspar, who as legend holds was a Spanish nobleman who turned to piracy and plundered ships in the Gulf of Mexico, especially near Tampa. There is no evidence that Gaspar ever came to Tampa, nor that he ever actually existed, but we dedicate a parade to him which has been a Tampa tradition since 1904. The parade falls on the last week of January, and is without a doubt Tampa’s biggest party. On average about 300,000 people attend the parade yearly, all hoping to catch some pirate booty (beads that is).

Academy girls are always amongst the 300,000 in attendance. Senior, Victoria Martinez had a yearlong 365 day countdown to the parade, in which she kept all her academy sisters updated on via twitter (true quality tweets). Needless to say, it’s her favorite holiday. She’s not the only one. Last week you would have been hard pressed to find a girl who wasn’t talking about Gasparilla. Where they were going before, where they were standing on the parade route, where they were going after, what they were wearing, all things Gasparilla. Essentially it’s a big deal.

Having attended Gasparilla my whole life I’ve come to conclude that although it may seem like simply a social event, a time to make a fashion statement (with skulls), or a time to throw a party, it’s actually much more than that. Gasparilla is something you can only get in Tampa, for those of us who grew up going to the parade it’s a piece of our childhood, our hometown, and our friends and family. If you went this year, then I know you had a good time, if you didn’t, then I encourage you to go next year and make your own tradition of it.