Florida has many beachfront resorts, theme parks, and natural preserves to take in. For many of those locations, would one have to look hard to find their individual local characteristics. Some of those traits are proudly displayed within the greater Tampa Bay area.
Tampa is just one of many populous cities that comprise this large natural harbor that connects Florida with the Gulf of Mexico. The arrival of the South Florida Railroad in 1883 threw open the doors for new businesses and people looking to settle in a warmer climate. Those years developed the area’s rich history. Listed below are just four interesting facts about the Tampa Bay region.
Shark Tooth Beach
Sarasota County, located on the southern tip of Tampa Bay, is home to many Gulf beaches like the one in Venice. Venice Beach is a prime destination for visitors who want to comb the beach for fossilized shark teeth.
Sharks are rare at Venice, but the land itself was teeming with them 10 million years ago. When the waters receded, the sharks’ skeletons disintegrated into the sand, leaving only their teeth intact. Today, you can buy or rent a one-of-a-kind “Venice Snow Shovel” to dig and sift for these teeth. Some vary in size between 1/8” to ¾”.
The Babe’s Longest Home Run
Plant Field was once a hallowed field of Tampa real estate that hosted the first professional baseball game in 1899. The Chicago Cubs would use the field for spring training until 1916, when they were followed by the Boston Red Sox.
It was on April 4, 1919, that the Sox’s MVP, Babe Ruth, scored the biggest hit of his final season. In a game against the New York Giants, Ruth hit a 587-foot home run. It was the longest in Ruth’s entire career and one of the longest in the sport’s history.
Cigar City Chickens
Cuban cigars are a sought after commodity, but one Tampa city has been making them for over 100 years. Ybor City was founded by Vicente Martinez-Ybor, a Havana cigar manufacturer, in 1885. Ybor’s factory employed Spanish and Cuban immigrants who also raised chickens in backyard coops.
After World War II, when automation changed manufacturing, the workers departed and left their chickens to fend for themselves. Since then, it’s common to see wild cocks strutting across roads and parks. The Ybor Chicken Society was founded in 2017 to protect and promote these feathered residents and their heritage.
Football fans know Tampa Bay for their Buccaneers, partly owed to local pirate Jose Gaspar. Gaspar, or “Gasparilla,” is known to only exist in tall tales from the 1900s. Though he may be immaterial, Tampa honors Gasparilla with their annual pirate festival.
“Gasparilla” Fest revolves around three major parades. These “Mardi Gras”-styled parades feature floats serviced by pirate-themed “krewes” that are organized around many of the area’s multicultural and charitable organizations. Festivities run from the mid-January Children’s Parade to early March with the outward voyage of the Jose Gasparilla.