Attention, all ye land-lubbers: Ye best shiver yer timbers and set sail farrrr ye Tortugas if ye not be lookin' farrr some hearty fun this weekend wit me mateys, as the 11th annual Fort Myers Beach Pirate Festival invades the sharrrrrrs of the island Friday through Sunday, Oct. 7 to 9.
Hundreds of pirates, scalawags, swash-bucklers and treasure-hunters will be pillaging the north end of the island, from Bay Walk up to Times Square, offering land-lubbers and scurvy sailors, alike, a wealth of pirate fun.
Now in its 11th season, our very own Pirate Festival has grown in popularity over the years, now becoming a mainstay for many pirate crews from near and far.
"Everything is going really great, just tucking in all the loose ends, and planning on this being the biggest festival yet. We get bigger and better every year, with more and more crews joining us from the Miami/Lauderdale area, St. Augustine they come from near and far to be sure to attend our festival," said Belinda Hadcock, event director of the Pirate Festival, who has been a part of it since its wee beginning 11 years ago. "We expect about 8-10,000 to attend."
The entire fest kicks off with the infamous Pirate Pub Quest, where three captains embark on a roving-island journey, initiating more and more crew along the way. The captain with the most crew at the end of the quest is declared the winner. "It's truly a game in itself," Belinda said. "Captains use all types of techniques to obtain more crew, whether it be trickery, bribery, Shanghaiing it's much more than just a pub crawl."
Happy to be incorporating Times Square into the Pirate Fest mix this year, look forward to live music reigning from the square's stage Friday and Saturday nights, with West of Galway performing from 6 to 10 p.m. each eve. An adult costume contest will take place at the stage Saturday night, at 8 p.m.
Saturday and Sunday then turn a little plunder into a huge pillage, as all of Bay Walk is taken over by pirates, with the open cannons firing at 10 a.m. each morn.
"There will be hundreds of roving pirates and street entertainers all weekend, For Love or Money is returning, we will have pirate magic and other street performers," Belinda said, followed by the next warning. "And the island will be presided over by the Lord Governor Henry Hyde, overseeing the Port of Ol' San Carlos. He is a man of questionable integrity, so you'll want to watch out for your valuables when he's nearby."
You'll see sword fighting, dancing, chanting and merry singing and even a pirate wedding, as two of the crew's mates will wed which is a big part of this year's story of the Clash in the Pass, the epic daily sea battle along the back bay, featuring black-powder guns and cannons firing upon the pirate ships in the blue sea.
"There's always a story as to how the Clash in the Pass comes about, our fantastic ship to shore sea battle, and this year involves a pirate wedding. We have even more firepower than last year, and pirate ships will include the Pieces of Eight and the Black Duck," Belinda said. "Some historians and other gunners are coming from the east coast this year, and while they're not at battle, will provide educational times at the stages to show and educate everyone on ancient weaponry and to see their arsenal."
Farrrrr those of you who've already tied the nautical knot, a vow-renewal ceremony will take place at the Crow's Nest Stage Saturday at 2:30. All are welcome to attend, and there is absolutely no charge.
Live music will take place continuously from the festival's two stages: the Cannon (main) Stage and the Crow's Nest Stage. Some of the big returning acts will include The Craic and the Rusty Cannons, two phenomenally talented groups who always get the pirates yellin' farr more.
"We have an amazing Merchant's Row, where artisans and vendors have come from all over to provide beautiful, hand-crafted work, and these vendors are really excited about it because they always say our show is their favorite to attend," Belinda said. "We have a milliner who makes the most gorgeous hats, we have a beautiful hand-sewn pirate garb and leather-worker, costuming, jewelers, gem- and silver-encrusted glassware, leather creations, wood creations, mugs, chests so many of the items are just so gorgeous and you don't have to be a pirate to enjoy them. All types of amazing, beautiful pieces will be available."
Children will keep cool at the Water Ball Lagoon that also has face painters, balloon twisters, ice cream and roasted corn, lemonade and much more. A children's costume contest will take place at 12:30 each afternoon.
"Our Find a Pirate Game is also very popular with the children,"?Belinda said. "Each child gets a game sheet with six of our cast members' caricatures, and they are tasked with finding these pirates, with clues given for each. Anytime they see a roving pirate wearing an identifying pin, they can walk up and ask them for more clues. Once they find all six pirates, they win a big prize bag. We gave out 600-700 prize bags last year, and have 1,000 ready to go for this year's festival."
A kid's fishing contest is returning Saturday at the dock, as well, from 10 a.m. to noon. There is no charge to participate, and the first 50 children with adult guardians get to keep their fishing poles, Belinda said.
For those with a sweet tooth, dig into the pumpkin pie eating contest at 1:10 p.m. by the fountain. There's both an adult and kid's division, and the sea battle kicks off just after that.
The cost for all of this (and much more) is a $5 requested donation for those 13 and over (12 and under are free). Two-day passes are available, which gets you entrance for both days, along with special access to food and drink specials all around the beach that weekend, for $20. All are welcome to attend the festival, and don't be afraid to dress up and channel your inner pirate.
For further information or a full schedule of events, visit FMBPirateFest.com. See ye tharrrrrr!