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Wet Your Whistle With Caution At Gasparilla

Bobbie O'Brien
WUSF Public Media
A cooler present at Gasparilla 2017.

It's that time of year again, matey. Gasparilla, Tampa's annual pirate festival and parade, will be taking place this Saturday for swashbucklers and buccaneers alike.

Go easy on the bottle of rum, however, because law enforcement will be cracking down on drinking, whether you're on land or sea.

Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission officials, along with local officers, will be on the water, enforcing a zero tolerance policy for boaters who operate their vessels while impaired by drugs or alcohol.

To accommodate boaters who would like to imbibe during the festivities, Pepin Distributing and Budweiser have partnered with Anchor, a Missouri-based company that pairs boat owners with captains. To hire a captain, or apply to be a captain-for-hire during Gasparilla, visit their website.

Underage drinking will also not be tolerated. Hillsborough high school students received a call this week from Superintendent Jeff Eakins and Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, informing them of the do's and don'ts, and reminding them that no quarter will be given to those who partake in underage drinking.

"We expect (our students) to make the right choices at Gasparilla to ensure they have a safe and fun time there," said Eakins at a press conference Monday.

According to Tampa Police Chief Brian Dugan, there will be around 2,000 officers working Gasparilla, all of whom will be on the lookout for excessive and underage drinking. He advises people to be cautious with their consumption of alcohol, especially since the event starts early in the day.

"I don't want to be the fun killer," Dugan said. "But if you're not used to drinking at 9 a.m. on Saturday morning, and you get up and start drinking on an empty stomach, come see me about noon and we'll see how it works out for you."

Buckhorn echoed that sentiment.

"Adult beverages are fine, but do it in moderation," the mayor said. "And you don't often hear an Irish guy saying that."

For general information on Gasparilla-related events, text 'Gasparilla' to 888-777.

WUSF News has a list of road closures and parking garages, as well as a map of the parade route here. We will also have updates throughout the weekend on Twitter.

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