By NATALIE SAYEWICH
Friday, April 12, 2013
PirateFest invites the adventurous to set sail without leaving the downtown area this weekend.
Now in its seventh year, PirateFest, an outdoor event featuring art, food, music and culture is set to begin tonight, and is expected to be bigger than ever.
It began with a celebration of the centennial anniversary of East Carolina University, but was so successful that it has transformed into something more all-encompassing.
Last year, an estimated 30,000 people attended PirateFest.
“We conducted a survey of attendees and 59 percent of attendees were families and the rest were students,” Bianca Shoneman, the director of Uptown Greenville said. “I feel like PirateFest is a really good example of bringing students and families together to celebrate the history of eastern North Carolina as well as the Pirates of East Carolina University.”
PirateFest has expanded by four blocks since 2012 and will take place between Washington and Reade streets from Fifth Street to the Tar River this year.
Though the main events are on Saturday, the celebration begins tonight with the Buccaneer Bash featuring food trucks, local beer, live bluegrass musics and dancing from The Green Grass Cloggers.
Scattered thunderstorms are predicted in the area today, but pirates wouldn’t return to port because of a few showers, and PirateFest’s policy is the same.
“We are a rain or shine event,” Shoneman said. “We will be out listening to music and watching The Green Grass Cloggers enjoy themselves.
“Saturday is slated to be probably the prettiest day of the year so far with sunshine and warm breezes, which just creates a great climate for good food, great entertainment, live music, great art. Lots of opportunities to do things.”
Though there will be carnival-type food trucks for those who want a funnel cake or a turkey leg, PirateFest organizers have made an effort to emphasize local restaurant participation. Area restaurants like Fleur Delicious, Shore to Door seafood, Sup Dogs and Dickey’s BBQ will set up food trucks and stands, but restaurants downtown will remain open as well and are preparing for big crowds.
“Matt Scully (owner of The Scullery restaurant) told me last year he ran out of ice cream at 2 o’clock,” Shoneman said. “So he actually has been preparing for weeks. His ice cream, being handmade, he’s been stocking up on it.”
Fittingly, the festival is trying to stake its claim as the destination for all things pirate with an attempt to set a world record of most people dressed as pirates in one place on Saturday from 9 to 11 a.m. “Blackbeard’s Challenge,” which has been approved by Guinness World Records, will need 14,232 people dressed as pirates to break the world record currently held by Hastings, England.
The specifics of what constitutes being dressed like a pirate for the purposes of the competition can be found at the PirateFest website (piratefestncom).
As in previous years, there will be art, live music, BMX stunt shows, black powder and knot-tying demonstrations and swordfights. PirateFest still gives a nod to the International Festival — which merged with PirateFest several years ago — at the International Ports O’Call Stage with performances inspired by people and places around the world. An area called “Green Fest” will educate residents about environmental issues.
For young pirates, The Daily Reflector has sponsored the Lil’ Pirates Pavilion area, where there will be arts and crafts activities and six different types of inflatables, including, of course, a pirate ship.
Those looking for a more literal way to leave land behind can walk down to the river where the Pamlico-Tar River Foundation has partnered with PirateFest and is offering free kayaking from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. To get a crow’s nest view of downtown, Greenville Utilities Commission will send people up 100 feet in its bucket trucks. Greenville historian Roger Kammerer will be guiding architectual tours of Greenville in the Jolly Trolley.
There will be so many things to do and see and eat, the biggest challenge might be in the realization that there’s no way to do it all and deciding what will have to wait until next year.
“I think if you got here at 10 and left at 7,” Shoneman said “you might be able to get halfway through it.”
Where: Downtown, between Washington and Reade Streets, from Fifth Street to the Tar River
When: 5-8 p.m. today and 10 a.m.-7 p.m. Saturday
Cost: Entry is free, some events charge
via The Daily Reflector.