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My Gasparilla Parade

Today is one of my favorite running days of the year. It is the biggest annual party day in Tampa, a day when grown-ups dress in pirate garb, start kegging at 10 in the morning, get rowdy over cheap, plastic beads, and create chaos along Bayshore Boulevard and all streets leading up to it. But these aren't the reasons I love today.

Lately I've had trouble waking up for my early morning runs, and while this morning was no exception, I did have some extra incentive to actually get out there and not put it off until tomorrow. Because of the Gasparilla Pirate Fest and parade scheduled to take place later in the day, the road was blocked off all along Bayshore Boulevard, where I usually run. This may not seem like a big deal, but two of the main drawbacks to running regularly on Bayshore are the concrete sidewalk and the noise and exhaust from vehicles constantly passing by. This morning, we runners, walkers, and bikers got to roam free in the streets, as if Bayshore were our own personal playground.

But aside from the freedom of the open road, I also got to see the preparations for the parade in action: various vendors setting up, police officers congregating, tailgate parties kicking off, kids tossing a football in the street, and a couple of random pirates walking by. And by the way, this was all around 7:30 in the morning. The actual parade doesn't begin until 2:30pm. This much "partying" I can handle, but come 10, 11 o'clock, the real debauchery begins. And for this reason, I have always left my South Tampa home on this day to allow those who enjoy the noise and crowds and drunkenness to do so without my irritable temperament getting in their way.

So I write this from a quiet suburban neighborhood in Citrus Park, where I can enjoy the day in peace and spend some time with my favorite almost-one-year-old.

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