TAMPA — In the past, Jim Ellis participated in the revelry officially known as the annual Gasparilla Pirate Festival.
He spent time under the sun, throwing and catching beads with good-time friends, celebrating the mock pirate invasion and generally participating in the day’s merriment.
“I’d never seen the aftermath,” Ellis said Sunday afternoon, as he helped a team of volunteers from Invictus Paddling Club’s Dragon Boat Team clean Gasparilla debris along Bayshore Boulevard. “There’s confetti everywhere.”
It wasn’t just confetti.
There were scads of empty red Dixie cups, smashed soda and beer cans, shrapnel from countless Mylar balloons, cigarette butts, beads and all manner of other trash.
“It’s heavier than I thought it would be,” Ellis said of the volume of garbage.
“They’ll need hundreds more people just for the confetti,” said Lauren Greenfield, also with the Invictus team.
Ellis and Greenfield, both of Tampa, were among dozens of volunteers who participated in Sunday afternoon’s clean-up, which began at noon and ended around 3 p.m. The clean-up was sponsored by the Tampa Bay Green Consortium, Keep Tampa Bay Beautiful and the city’s Department of Solid Waste and Environmental Program Management.
Volunteers cleaned a mess left by “a record-sized crowd,” according to Tampa police spokeswoman Laura McElroy. A final crowd estimate will be available Monday.
While there were no major incidents Saturday, clean-up was a concerted effort.
Carole Adamczyk of the Tampa Women’s Club led a group of volunteers from the Juniorettes, the club’s program for middle and high school girls.
The girls got a sobering glimpse of Gasparilla’s aftermath.
Juniorettes Kaila Diorio, 16, who attends Berkeley Preparatory School, and Olivia Rivas, 17, who attends Academy of the Holy Names, found a shopping cart, a camel bladder full of lemonade spiked with liquor, a partially eaten turkey leg and a condom.
Juniorettes Ronnie Fair, 16, and Grayson Garraty, 17, both of whom attend Academy of the Holy Names were standing in front of a large brick house on Bayshore. With six columns across the front porch, the manse sported a black flag hanging near the front door that read: “Pirate For Life.”
A tiny bottle of Fireball whiskey was in the yard, near a crumpled can of Mountain Dew and what looked like small piles of torn paper.
An empty fifth of Tanqueray gin rested in the shade of tall trees nearby.
“This is the first year I’ve done” the clean-up, Adamczyk said. “There were probably about a dozen (clean-up) groups at (the morning orientation), but there were also lots of individuals.”