Fun at Tampa’s Gasparilla Music Festival

Gasparilla Music Festival

The main stage early in the day

Saturday was the second annual Gasparilla Music Festival. Such a good time! This festival is a great addition for the hip cultural relevance of Tampa. I think it really gives us some street cred. Suck it St. Pete! (Just kidding.) ;)

The day itself couldn’t have been more perfect. It was the kind of weather that makes all the northerners who come for vacation never go home.

The venue was Curtis Hixon Park, a great place to hang even without a music festival and which has itself boosted downtown Tampa’s cool factor. It’s a little green oasis on the Hillsborough River nestled in between the tall buildings and it beautifully highlights the juxtaposition of old and new between the modern Tampa Museum of Art and the University of Tampa across the river with it’s classically distinctive minarets. It just might be the most picturesque spot in all of Tampa.

Curtis Hixon Park

Curtis Hixon Park facing downtown

From Curtis Hixon Park facing the University of Tampa

Curtis Hixon Park facing the University of Tampa

A volunteer I chatted with told me excitedly that in the very spot where Curtis Hixon Park now stands used to be Curtis Hixon Hall, which I actually knew because I had been there when I was younger and because–ahem, name-dropping about to happen–I am actually related to Curtis Hixon. Growing up I always felt slightly (unfoundedly) proprietary about the Curtis Hixon name. Curtis was the mayor of Tampa at the end of World War II, but since I wasn’t even born until 20 years after he died we didn’t have an especially close relationship.

What I didn’t know was that Curtis Hixon Hall was where some very cool musical events went down back in the day. Apparently there was an amazing Grateful Dead show in the early 70′s to name just one. So according to my volunteer friend we were on hallowed musical ground and in the perfect spot for a music festival. I was inclined to agree.

His enthusiasm was infectious and he echoed the same feeling I had and heard expressed throughout the day from several friends, that Tampa needed something like this. He quoted a Grateful Dead song (I’m thinking he was a fan), “Don’t tell me this town ain’t got no heart, you just gotta’ poke around.” Well said, young volunteer guy.

The good times were further enhanced by the fact that approximately half of my former high school classmates were in attendance (the fun half). Most of them had their kids with them for the early part of the day and then packed them off with the grandparents so they could enjoy the evening portion of the event adult-style. A great way to do the day, in my opinion.

The music was good, I especially liked an earlier-in-the-day band called The Hip Abduction. And they scored Page from Phish for the closing act. Big time!

The food was from local restaurants and great, not your typical festival fare. And, if my friends were any indication, the craft beers went down smoothly. :) I stuck to the eco-friendly boxed water option myself, which got some funny looks at first as people thought I was carrying around a carton of milk. Nothing quenches like some warm milk on a hot day!

Boxed water is better

Boxed water is better yo!

I watched the orange-shirted event promoters run around like chickens with their heads cut off all day making sure that everything ran smoothly. Impressive. There are a lot of moving parts to a music festival between the many bands, the food/drink vendors, the volunteers, and, of course, the port-a-potty situation. It boggles my mind to think about trying to put that together. Kudos to all of you for making it look, if not easy, at least manageable. And thank you. I can’t wait for GMF 3!

Gasparilla Music Festival

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6 thoughts on “Fun at Tampa’s Gasparilla Music Festival

  1. Hola, Stephanie! The city of Tampa owes you “big-time” for your blog Curtis Hixon Park – (immortality) – from the mundane to magnificent that was great writing about an event. It is a jewel!

  2. Momwest and I attended a Tom Jones concert in Curtis Hixon Hall many years ago, and pretty sure we once even saw a young Elvis there as well.

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