Sunday, January 21, 2007

Fireworks From My Front Porch

It's Gasparilla time here in the Big Guava.

What that means is that here, in the town where I live, it's time for our local version of Mardi Gras.

Our town calls itself the "Big Guava" because we have a large Cuban population, and we call our Mardi Gras celebration "Gasparilla" in honor of the dread pirate, Jose Gaspar, who supposedly sailed up and took over the city in the late 1700's (I say "supposedly" because evidently no one can really decide whether it's just a colorful legend designed to attract tourists or an actual event.) Either way, it's an excuse to PAR-TAY! We have our "krewes" of Tampa elite (led by the original, Ye Mystic Krewe of Gasparilla) who hold lavish, period dress balls and coronations (and take over the society pages of the newspaper) for a month or two beforehand. We have three separate, gigantic parades held at three different times (the Children's Parade, the Night Parade, and the huge, day-long spectacle called Gasparilla Parade), a mock flotilla invasion involving thousands of privately owned boats led by a pirate vessel stuffed to the gills with drunken/shouting/sword-wielding businessman/pirates. It's been an annual tradition since 1904, and I've grown up loving it (well, except for the "elitism" of the krewes, but that's something I can ignore in favor of the fun). :)

Anyway, yesterday was the Children's Parade, and it's always held along Bayshore Blvd., which is just a couple of blocks from my house. I didn't need to attend the parade to enjoy the best parts of the show... the Red Baron aviation show in the late afternoon, and the fireworks blowout that evening. The Red Baron bi-planes were awesome... 4 to 6 old-fashioned barn-burners, diving, circling and swooping in perfectly timed, synchronized moves that left trails of smoke across the bright blue sky. I watched them from my back yard while I did a little gardening. But the best display was in the early evening, just after dark, when giant booms announced the firework show.

I went out and sat on my front porch, watching the colorful explosions light up the night through the canopy of oak trees in my yard. It was a breath-taking, awe-inspiring spectacle. No matter how many times I've seen fireworks, I get the same feeling. But this time, I was struck by how incredibly lucky I was to be sitting in the quiet comfort of my darkened porch, sipping a glass of wine as flowers of fire glittered in the air above my head.

Next weekend I'll go brave the crowds and attend the main parade, shouting for beads and boogeying with the marching bands along with everyone else. But last night I had my own private fireworks display, and that's what I'll remember long after the beads get tossed in a drawer.


Anonymous said...

Sounds really beautiful, Terri! We have a foot of snow and ice right now though, don't know if that mixes well with sitting on porches and watching fireworks. ;-) BUT - sounds lovely.

Terri said...

A foot of snow and ice... jeez! Poor Tammy! We Florida girls sure take the weather for granted, don't we? It's 82 today.

Anna Sugden said...

82?! We've got more like 32 here in NJ.

The whole Gasparilla shebang sounds great ... so what do you have to do to get the people on the floats to toss you beads? Is it like New Orleans?

Terri said...

Naughty, naughty Anna!!! (I knew I loved you) We call them 'BB beads'... they're white, like pearls, and the best way to get them is Bare your Breasts (hence, the name 'BB'). Of course, we all know I would never do that... :)

Michele said...

What a fantastic event, Terri. How fun! And you describe it beautifully...reminds me that I live on the wrong coast! ;-)

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