The Gasparilla Parade
Gasparilla celebration was a huge annual affair in Tampa which was, and still is celebrated by the “Invasion of the Pirate Gasparilla”. The festivities culminate with a gala parade down Columbus Blvd. When B.P.O.E. Lakleland Lodge #1291 was invited to take place in this event on February 1914 they accepted.
Many months of thought and labor went into the design and building of a float which Lakeland Lodge #1291 would enter into this parade. The day came that all were waiting for and the committe and participants gathered early in the morning for the long trip to Tampa. The break of dawn revealed dark clouds gathering in the sky but surely the Gods would not rain on our parade as we set out for Tampa.
Our float was pulled by a Model T Ford and most of the party rode on the float because they were needed to hold the decorations in place. A flat tire brought them to an abrupt halt near Plant City. The aggravation of having to change a tire during a torrential downpour of rain and thunder dampened their spirits.
The dirt road had now turned into slippery mud and the Model T, followed by the float, took a sideways slide into the muddy water of a ditch near Seffner. After some time, and with the help of a friendly farmer and his team of mules, our tattered group was back on the road headed for Tampa. By then it was well past the starting time of 2:00 PM.
By the will of God, and great persistence, they did make it only to find that the parade had left. Undaunted, they continued, muddy and wet, even though the float was in shambles. About the half way point they were met by the parade heading toward them on their return trip. The return trip home was uneventful and a well deserved celebration took place back in Lakeland.
The following year, February 16, 1915, saw our Lodge in the Gasparilla parade again. This time everything was successful. Our float was shaped like two strawberries and we were tossing oranges and strawberries to the crowd. Leading the float was the Lakeland Military Band.