KEY WEST, Florida Keys — The spiritual descendents of Blackbeard, Calico Jack Rackham, pirate queen Anne Bonny and even Captain Jack Sparrow are to descend on Key West Friday, Nov. 26, through Sunday, Dec. 5, for the 11th annual Pirates in Paradise Festival. Designed to appeal to children and adults alike, the colorful gathering typically brings hundreds of buccaneer aficionados and re-enactors to celebrate the island city’s adventurous seafaring history.
The festival schedule features tall ship sailing adventures, a plank-walking championship, living history pirate encampments, swashbuckling soirees and parties, a “village thieves’ market” and pirate pub, pirate tours of Key West, an educational tall ship sailing seminar and the staged re-creation of the trial of Anne Bonny and Mary Read, real-life female buccaneers who were captured in Caribbean waters in the early 1700s.
Pirates and damsels are to demonstrate their boldness and style at the sixth annual Walk the Plank National Championships, set for 3:30 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 2. Competitors are to vie for glory and bragging rights by plunging into the briny deep from the topsail Schooner Wolf, the flagship of the Keys’ Conch Republic.
The Wolf is to be moored just off Key West’s Truman Waterfront Commons for the challenge, beside the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Ingham Maritime Museum and U.S.S. Mohawk Coast Guard Cutter Memorial Museum. Truman Waterfront Commons is located at the end of Southard Street past Truman Annex.
Throughout the 2010 Pirates in Paradise Festival, aspiring seafarers can experience tall ship pirate sailing excursions aboard the Schooner Wolf, including sunset sails, and join Captain Finbar in lighthearted attacks on “land forces” and unsuspecting vessels in the harbor. The captain also is to lead the two-day Tall Ship Sail Training Intensive, where aspiring seafarers can learn sail-handling and navigational techniques among other skills.
Fans of Blackbeard, Sparrow and other brigands are invited to meet their brethren at the Village Thieves’ Market, Holiday Bazaar and Pirate Pub at Truman Waterfront Commons. Piratical escapades are scheduled there, free to the public, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday and Saturday, Dec. 3-4, and noon to 5 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 5.
Nonstop entertainment is to be provided by strolling minstrels and combative stuntmen. Little buccaneers can enjoy games and treasure hunts in a special kids’ area, and vendors plan to offer period arts and crafts. A homemade brew competition is “on tap” as well.
For literature and history buffs, Literature and the Sea events are scheduled featuring award-winning author and lecturer Robert Macomber, while a tall tales invitational is designed to tempt storytelling scallywags. Artists of all skill levels and ages can participate in fantasy artist Don Maitz’s Pirate Art 101 Color Along.
In addition, living-history pirate encampments, “invasions” and demonstrations by military re-enactors are scheduled at Fort Zachary Taylor, an authentic Civil War fortification adjacent to Truman Waterfront Commons. Fort Taylor events are planned for 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Dec. 3-5.
Other piratical pleasures include the Key West Maritime Pirates Sunset Reception and Conch Republic Military Holiday Feast Extravaganza, to be staged at Truman Waterfront Commons beside the historic Coast Guard Cutters Ingham and Mohawk. The gala is to feature the Keys’ picturesque Conch Republic Military Forces, a rum tasting, a bountiful feast and dancing to the music of favorite local musicians including Howard Livingston & the Mile Marker 24 Band and Mike Emerson and the Southernmost Brass Swing Band.
For more information about the festival, including a complete schedule of events, visit www.piratesinparadise.com or call 305-296-9694.
For lodging information in Key West, call 1-800-LAST-KEY (800-527-8539) or visit the Keys website at www.fla-keys.com. Keys information also can be found on Facebook at www.facebook.com/floridakeysandkeywest and on Twitter at twitter.com/thefloridakeys.