I recently attended the Gasparilla Festival while visiting my son in Tampa. It’s a huge Mardi Gras-like event held since 1904 to commemorate the capture of the city, so the legend says, in the late 1700s by a Spanish pirate named Jose Gaspar and his crew. The event starts with a pirate ship sailing into the harbor with its cannons firing, pursued by hundreds of boats filled with residents supposedly trying to stop it.
The pirates sail through the defending fleet, disembark, and take over the city, after which there is an immense parade as pirates and citizens dressed as pirates “pillage” the waterfront. The commemoration begins in the morning and lasts well into the night. Needless to say there is much partying gling on throughout. The experience makes the St. Patrick’s Day Parade look like a high school football rally.
It’s a major event for the city of Tampa, bringing in thousands of tourists and generating millions of dollars. Why can’t we do something like that? Boston needs a summer festival, an annual celebration like we had when the tall ships came in 1976. Capitalizing on the proximity of the events depicted in the movie “Jaws,” I propose the first “Jawsapolooza.”
Can you see it now? A giant mechanical shark swimming into Boston Harbor pursued by a weathered fishing boat, the good ship “Orca,” with a grizzly old captain at the bow, harpoon in hand. Perhaps we should consider a different celebrity harpooner each year, like Gronk for example. In the background is the steady drone of the shark theme from the movie. Hundreds of private boats follow the “Orca” into the harbor with the occupants shouting encouragement to the heroic harpooner.
Castle Island is packed with revelers, cheering as the leviathan moves into the inner harbor. The Constitution’s cannons discharge and fire boat-spray to alert the city to the danger. Will the brave crew be able to stop the sea creature in time?
The shark is slain and the city saved. It’s towed to a downtown wharf, hoisted from the water, and put on display for all to see. The celebration begins. The shark is carried down the Greenway through the Seaport District followed by floats, bands, and dancing celebrants. Instead of beads, strings of plastic shark teeth are tossed to the crowds. Jubilation reigns as the city rejoices that the harbor waters are safe once more. The mayor welcomes the noble crew.
Shark caps, shark burgers, shark t-shirts, and toy harpoons are hawked on every corner. Harpoon Brewery would be a sponsor and host an open house. The celebration continues into the night when peace once more settles on a city, safe until next year when the enormous threat that prowls the deep once again surfaces.
This may sound whimsical and others may have a better idea. But the point is: Boston needs something big to celebrate every summer, something that people will enjoy, that won’t cost much, and that will generate enthusiasm and revenue. It certainly would have more appeal than the Olympics or a car race.
James W. Dolan is a retired Dorchester District Court judge who now practices law.