What’s cooler than an entire weekend on the waterfront dedicated to pirates? The answer: Nothing. Any time you have three straight days of pirate fun, located in historic downtown Hampton, you know it’s going to be a great weekend. And with such a great pirate history in Hampton, there couldn’t be a better place to hold the festival. There’s nothing like a hundred or so pirates running around, in full regalia, to bring a city together.
This year’s Blackbeard Pirate Festival was my first, and certainly not my last. Maybe I enjoy pirates a little too much for a grown man, but I think a few hours at this past weekend’s festival could brighten the spirits of even the most downtrodden landlubber. To see people of all ages come together and celebrate pirates, in all their glory, was a sight to behold. Children spent the day running around in eye patches, dancing to music, and chasing each other with plastic swords, setting the tone for our next generation of pirates. All around, you could see people eating, drinking, playing with their kids, and having a wonderful piratey time.
I spent the entire day Saturday, at the festival, from around 7:30am all the way through the fireworks at 9:00pm. I held an open house at a modern, renovated waterfront condo at 218 Mill Point Drive (listing agent Ryan Lowrie), which is located right in heart of the festival. The open house didn’t start until 11:00, which gave me plenty of time to get out early and talk to the vendors and watch the pirates prep for the long day ahead. I knew it would be a great day when around 8:00am there were already two pirates engaged in an epic swordfight, to the death, I presume. Keep in mind, the festival doesn’t technically start until 9:00am. That’s how you know these men and women truly love what they do. Who wouldn’t though?
I’ve always been under the impression that pirates were supposed to be mean, evil creatures of the sea, only coming to land to pillage your town and steal your women. You can understand how disappointed I was when it turned out that these pirates were some of the nicest people I’d ever come across. All these men and women want is an opportunity to share their culture with fellow pirate lovers of all ages. Want to yell back and forth like a pirate? No problem. Want a picture? Absolutely! (click here for photos) Their costumes were unbelievable; no two were the same. And if you wanted to finish your day looking like part of the crew, the pirate vendors could absolutely make it happen. The selection of goods from swords to corsets was more than any pirate, or his wench, would ever need.
I’m sure the local restaurants were thrilled to see this many people downtown. Most looked completely packed with patrons spending their pirate gold. The street vendors seemed equally excited for the day ahead. Locals selling t-shirts, jewelry, hats and hooks, and pretty much anything else you can think of, lined the streets. Not to mention all the heart attack inducing fried food a person can eat. For them, a chance to set up shop for the weekend, and stimulate their personal economy brought joy to their faces, and extra zeros to their bank accounts. One beer vendor told me how much they made in tips in one night. Let’s just say it was enough so that I asked for my dollar tip back. Trust me, she didn’t need it. I met a t-shirt vendor early in the morning while she was setting up, and we chatted about the day for a little while. When I saw her later in the evening, I asked how business was today. Her response, “It kicked ass!”
This all lead to the second night of fireworks down on the water. Boats filled the river, while people lined the shore to watch an awesome display, highlighted by a waterfall of white fire that rained down off the side of the bridge. I had never seen anything like it before and it was certainly a pleasant surprise. Seeing so many people get so much out of an amazingly fun event like this is exactly what makes downtown Hampton such an awesome place to spend a day or a lifetime. If you didn’t get a chance to make down to this year’s Pirate Festival, I highly encourage you to plan on making next years. I promise a swashbuckling good time.