It’s that time of year in Tampa Bay, which means everyone’s mind turns to one thing: pirates. Aaaarrrrgggghhhh!
The annual Gasparilla Pirate Festival is now one of the biggest events in the area, with tens of thousands streaming into the downtown Tampa area to watch the annual parade and attend concerts and parties.
For many businesses, neighborhoods and schools, it’s also time to consider throwing a pirate-themed party of your own. And with Gasparilla events now lasting into February, there’s a larger window for holding an event that doesn’t necessarily have to fall on the weekend of the big parade.
Luckily for larger organizations, there are plenty of choices to pick from when creating a party.
Outdoor Party Planning, Florida Style
Creating a Party Concept
Obviously, your main theme is set. Gasparilla is about pirates, and that’s what your party will center on.
But it’s also important – especially as a Tampa Bay neighborhood, school or business – to reflect the local culture. Tampa has a rich history that can be tapped when coming up with concepts for your event.
Food, for example, can focus on local favorites. Items to consider include:
- Cuban sandwiches. Born in Ybor City, Cuban sandwiches can be found (and pressed) all over the Tampa Bay area.
- Grouper sandwiches. Seafood is a staple of the area, including the classic grouper sandwich. Depending on your budget you could also consider stone crabs or deviled crabs. Really any type of seafood can work for a Tampa Bay party.
- Spanish dishes such as paella or chicken and rice are also popular local favorites.
- If you hold your event in February, it’s the perfect time to serve this fruit treat that will be ripening in fields across the area.
- Rum drinks. If your party is geared toward adults, rum is a good bet as it is a favorite at restaurants and bars in Tampa Bay (especially the closer you get to the beach). There is also a booming craft beer industry in the area, including Cigar City, Florida Avenue and Seventh Sun Brewing Company.
Finger Foods for Kids Parties ( Even the Picky Eaters)
Decorations and Party Favors
A large-scale party in a neighborhood or at a business or school will require some effort on decorations to create the right atmosphere. Fortunately, the choices are so many it would take a novella to list them all.
If the party is aimed at kids, there are many different pirate-themed party kits that provide cups, plates, napkins, tablecloths and banners that focus on images of the Jolly Roger, eye-patch wearing pirates, treasure chests and maps that lead the way to secret pirate booty.
You can also get customized party invitations with pirate themes.
The same can be said for party favors. Locations such as Party City feature pirate-themed water bottles, ribbons, inflatable coolers, pencils, wristbands, temporary tattoos, masks, chocolate coins, bubbles and eye patches.
Clearly, how you decorate is not limited by choice but by budget.
Tips For Creating a Party Budget
All of the above is good, but to make a large party memorable, you will want something that elevates the event to truly memorable status. This is where living in the Tampa Bay area really helps, because Central Florida has many party supply companies that provide entertainment – including those which are pirate-themed.
One such place is Air Fun Games in New Port Richey. A look at their website turned up these possible rentals for a large-scale pirate party.
Tampa Bay Bucs Pirate Ship Bounce House. Hard to go wrong here if the people coming to your party are fans of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (hint: they are). This giant inflatable pirate ship features a big moonwalk area, climbing challenges and a slide. This thing even has a big mast and cannons. It’s a safe way for the kids – and let’s face it, many of the adults – to celebrate pirate season.
Pirate Bounce House. This one has to be seen to be believed. Shaped like a giant, sitting pirate – complete with red-striped shirt, eye batch, pirate hat and dagger – this inflatable features five features in one attraction. There’s a bouncing area, basketball hoop, climbing wall, slide and obstacle course. This is the sort of maximum-size entertainment that’s needed to make a big party a hit.
There’s also a Tropical Bar and Drink Machine for the adults, as well as a number of challenging rock walls and obstacle courses that aren’t necessarily pirate-themed, but are fun, anyway.
Whatever you decide to use, remember to keep it Tampa-focused and with Gasparilla in mind. It’s a unique Tampa tradition, and one that can be enjoyed by both kids and adults.