Avast there, me Hearties! In pirate-speak, this means listen up! And you’d better, because America’s Oldest City is now being put on notice that invasion is imminent as pirates from the far corners and seven seas plan to converge on St. Augustine from November 9 – 11 for the 2012 Pirate Gathering.
“In the historic city where pirates once were a most feared menace, the oldest city will once again be occupied by blackheart rogues and wenches, but this time, the pirates will be in a much more festive mood,” said media spokesperson Faith Hirsch who is also among event coordinators.
According to Hirsch, “It will be a ‘gathering’ of pirates from around the country, coming together to celebrate the Golden Age of Piracy (1650s to 1740s), and to share their pride and knowledge with the citizens and visitors of Saint Augustine.”
Organizers from the local Krewe of the Black Heart and the St. Augustine Privateers promise this year’s Pirate Gathering will be the biggest and best ever, with pirates from around the globe invading the old city downtown for a weekend of events that will include living history demonstrations, periods weapons and live cannon firing; an authentic battle reenactment; Pirate Court and – of course – the much anticipated Buccaneer Bash.
View slideshow from Last year’s Pirate Gathering in St. Augustine
Events at Francis Field throughout the weekend will feature an 18th century performances, music on the glass harps, called “ghost fiddle”, and magic by Fairewynds; sea shanty singing and traditional music by The Brigades and For Love or Money; and belly-dancing and tribal fusion dance by Belili Moon. There will also be improvisation, sword fights, cannon firings, black powder demonstrations and pirates, pirates, pirates! More about the entertainment
On Friday, gates will open to the public at 4 p.m. Vendors on site in the “Thieves Market” will be selling a variety of plunder and goods, and there will be adult refreshment will available in the “Drop Anchor Tavern”, where you can quench your thirst and toast your shipmates with some notorious “Black Heart Grog”. For the kids there will be games, pirate magic, face painting, pictures and storytelling that will include tales of real St. Augustine pirates.
Gates open Saturday and Sunday at 10:00 a.m. cost is $2 per person or just a “Buck-an-Ear”.
“While the Pirate Gathering is a big weekend for us, we do events all year long for the community, with a particular focus on the kids,” said Black Heart Krewe member and Ancient City Privateer board member Thomas Brown (alias -Capt. Tom).
Also on Friday night, expect the first pirate wave or ‘mini invasion’ in the old city downtown with a Pirate Pub Crawl, beginning at the Drop Anchor Tavern at Francis Field at 6 p.m.
Fun slideshow – Pirate Pub Crawl for the HMS Bounty in April brought pirates from around the country to America’s oldest city
The historic pub crawl is described by organizers as a one-of-a-kind event, with the Crawl captains who will lead visiting pirates on a circuit of the old city downtown’s bars and restaurants. However, the event website warns the policy is “no brandishing of weapons unless you want to be a guest of local police for the weekend.”
“Don ye pirate garb and join us for a bit o’ mischief, skullduggery, and merrymaking, but the only weapon you should be armed with is a mug,” said Hirsch.
On Saturday, the big annual Pirate Parade will begin at 11 a.m. and follow a route along the Castillo fort and the bay front to Cathedral Street, making a right on Cordova to Orange and back to Francis Field.
Immediately follow the parade at around 12:30, the Pirate Battle will pit Spanish soldiers from the fort garrison against a scurvy foe bent on pillage and plunder of the city. Training has already commenced in sword play for the battle out at the Fountain of Youth (see FOY video of training), with a clinic taught by the renowned theatrical fencing instructor and fight and combat choreographer John Lennox. The battle will commence at the Redoubt and field on Orange Street near the City Gates and the Huguenot Cemetery where Spanish soldiers from the fort garrison will defend the city against a scurvy foe from the sea bent on pillage and plunder.
Video of last year’s pirate battle
Special events on Sunday will include the “Pirate Court,” based on authentic Pirate Code (yes, even blackhearts had a law of the sea). The Pirate Court will convene at noon at the Main Tent at Francis Field where grievances will be heard, disagreements settled, and sentences are handed down in this comical court of Captains.
From the Library of Congress – actual pirate court records – very cool!
“It’s all about fun, but we are also planning events that will focus on the true history of piracy and privateers. Bring out the kids because they seem to love it better than Santa or Mickey Mouse,” added Black Heart Krewe member John Druash, better known as “Sir Klanker”.
In fact, Druash and other board members say this year’s Pirate Gathering will be even more focused on historical aspects and correct garb of the time period for those participating in reenactment events (those who wish to participate in the battle reenactment must have proper garb of the period (around 1730 to 1740), and are required to attend a short instructional session at Francis Field immediately following Saturday’s parade in order to participate in the reenactments).
“For the pub crawl and attendance at any of the events at Francis Field, we welcome any type of garb, and especially for the kids who want to come out in their pirate costumes. But as far as the historic accuracy – let’s face it, there were no Johnny Depp look-a-likes wandering down St. George Street in 1740,” said “Philthy” Phil Reed, who also holds a “Letter of Marque” for his expertise and volunteer work as an historic reenactor for many St. Augustine historical events.
“If you have questions about proper, period-correct garb, please feel free to ask. Promoting a love of history and education is what we are about,” he added.
The Pirate Gathering will also be hosting local school groups on Friday prior to the event opening for educational demonstrations.
Charity fundraisers and educational programs at local schools have long been a focus of the Ancient City Privateers, according to Brown, while the group also maintains a stretch of SR 16 through the “Adopt-a-Highway” program.
Proceeds from this year’s Pirate Gathering events will go to benefit the St. Augustine Lighthouse Museum and the LAMP maritime youth education programs, and the Good Samaritan Health Center’s Wildflower Clinic.
The Pirate Gathering has also donated space for a fundraising and donations booth at Francis Field to aid crew and family members of the HMS Bounty, which sank on October 1 during Hurricane Sandy, tragically taking the life of crew member Claudene Christian – a descendent of famous Bounty munity leader Fletcher Christian (read more) . Bounty Captain Robin Walbridge remains missing.
The HMS Bounty – a replica tall ship built in 1962 for the movie classic Mutiny on the Bounty docked in St. Augustine in April to commemorate the 223rd Anniversary of the historic mutiny.
Donate online to help families and crew of the HMS Bounty and leave a guest message
View slideshow: HMS Bounty Farewell St. Augustine Slideshow
Many pirates say they will don black armbands for the Pirate Gathering and Buccaneer Bash as a sign of mourning for the Bounty, Christian and Walbridge.
A blood drive in conjunction with the Pirate Gathering will also be held at Francis Field on Saturday.
While many of the Pirate Gathering events are kid-and-family friendly, Hirsch cautions that – like the Pub Crawl – the Buccaneer Bash is for over-21 pirate elite. This year’s bash will feature Letters of Marque bestowed by St. Augustine’s Royal Family and feature prizes for the best table, best field entertainment and best garbed pirate or wench – judged by the queen herself.
“This is a time to lay down your arms and enjoy some great music, fine food and drinks,” said Hirsch, adding, “Come in your best pirate or cocktail attire, as you will be in royal company.”
A complete event schedule and more information on the 2012 Pirate Gathering is available at www.pirategathering.com. Tickets for the Buccaneer Bash are also available for sale online at the website.
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