Eastport Pirate Festival Offers Many Returning Favorites

2017 Pirate Festival.

By Lura Jackson

 

The largest pirate festival in New England is about to take place, and area residents with a lean toward creative, rambunctious family fun are highly encouraged to attend. Running from September 7th-9th in Eastport, this year’s festival once again features high-quality attractions and events for all ages.

Now in its 13th year, the Eastport Pirate Festival has steadily grown from its initial splash to become a tidal wave of energetic enthusiasm. Pirates from across the Northeastern states and the Maritimes make their way to the coastal town to participate in good-natured, street-based entertainment.

Friday marks the official start of the festival. Humorist Lee Southard and local musicians Keltic Schmeltic will get the party going in the early evening. At 6:30, the Pirate King and Pirate Queen will be elected based on the judgement of the Northeast Buccaneers pirate crew at the Sutherland Amphitheater downtown. The chosen king and queen will preside over the official Pirate Ball held that evening at the Chowder House beginning at 9 p.m., along with receiving a special escort in the parade.

The parade itself will take place on Saturday at 1 p.m. Open to all ages, cash prizes will be awarded to the best presented pirates and floats. The always-lively parade will include a cutlass demonstration and the periodic firing of small arms. Right after the parade, the percussive St. Andrews Pipe and Drum band will put on a show at the Sutherland Amphitheater.

After the St. Andrews crew fills the air with their dramatic melodies, one of the signature events of the festival will take place. This year, however, instead of racing beds, pirates will be racing pushcarts. “It makes it easier for people to participate and broadens the possibilities of what people can create,” Anthony Giard, planning committee member, said.

The entertainment continues into Saturday evening with a street dance orchestrated by Maine’s premier class rock band, Whoopy Kat. The dance begins at 6 p.m., pausing at 7:30 for one of the most spectacular displays in the area – a back-to-back performance of Ravenbane’s Firecraft crew and an “incredible, piratical” fireworks show.

While Ravenbane’s crew will be performing at various times and locations throughout the festival, the grand performance on Saturday evening will be their biggest show. “It’s very impressive in the dark,” Giard said, adding that the performers change their routine every year to ensure a novel experience for all attendees. Whoopy Kat’s street dance will resume after the fireworks at 10:30, ensuring that the kinetic energy will continue long into the night.

On Sunday, the finale of the festival is a race across the tops of lobster crates floating over the waters of the icy Passamaquoddy Bay. Giard provided that the contest is “always enjoyable to watch” and added that “it looks as if making it across one crate is an incredible feat, let along the five or six that some manage.”

 Over the years, fan favorites have been determined, and many of them are returning this year. Among them are a professional Captain Jack Sparrow impersonator, granting priceless photo ops for all fans of the swarthy fictional celebrity. “He was very popular last year, and a wonderful addition to the festival,” Giard said. Joining Captain Jack on the streets will be pirate entertainers 2F. “They will travel the streets and visit businesses, teaching piratical skills and getting into general mischief,” Giard said.

Apart from the professional entertainers, community members often join in the fun and adopt their pirate likenesses for the event. “People are always surprised at the number of attendees that come dressed in pirate garb,” Giard said. If you are planning on coming, you are encouraged to wear anything from a simple eye patch to full-on pirate regalia. Accessories for your outfit can be obtained at many businesses and vendors in downtown Eastport during the festival or from other local sources prior to the event.

Throughout the festival, be sure to stop in at Don Dunbar’s Eastern Maine Images gallery to see Tom Brennan’s Pirates! exhibit, which features many community members from the area depicted in pirate-themed settings.

Designs are now being accepted for next year’s festival poster. People can submit posters that they feel captures the theme of the festival, with the winning entry selected for mass promotion as the official poster next year. This year’s design was made by Ed Gorman of Somersworth, New Hampshire.

The planning committee for the Pirate Festival is seeking new volunteers to keep the festival fresh and fun moving forward. For more information about the festival or becoming a volunteer, contact Eastportpiratefestival@gmail.com. For this year’s extensive schedule of events, visit www.eastportpiratefestival.com.

Pirate invasion of Lubec

 

A week before the festival takes place, prospective pirates are encouraged to take part in the annual Invasion of Lubec. Participants can choose to either join the invasion – which launches from Eastport at 10 a.m. on September 1st – or to defend Lubec. All “combat” is water-based and generally involves water balloons and squirt guns. Those interested in leaving from Eastport can hitch a ride in the makeshift fleet of vessels or secure their passage on commercial vessels.