PANAMA CITYBEACH— Pirates have been planning to attack our shores since last year’s invasion. Prepare to see more pirate parades and sword swingin’ Friday and Saturday at the Pirates of the High Seas Fest in Pier Park.
“Part of the secret of this whole thing is October is widely talked about by locals as being the best month at the beach,” said Tammala Spencer, event coordinator for the Krewe of Dominique Youx. “The water is still great, the temperature is great; October is locals’ paradise. It is such a beautiful month, why not do something to celebrate? The pirate festival brings people to the beach to get a taste of October sunshine.”
The Krewe of Dominique Youx is hosting this year’s festival, sponsored by the Panama City Beach Convention and Visitors Bureau. Friday night shenanigans begin with the adult costume contest, followed by a costume contest for pets.
Jeff Brooks, who has been a member of the krewe for 12 years, has yet to understand adults’ hesitation to dress up.
“If you’re going to have fun, you might as well have fun,” said Brooks, who always is looking for a reason to get dressed up and join a sea of people.
Whether you are a child at heart or a child by definition, the festival is for all ages. The Children’s Pirate Costume Contest is at noon Saturday, but any child who dresses up is eligible to ride in the Children’s Parade with an adult later in the afternoon.
“They can throw candy and Moon Pies,” Spencer said.
Before moving to the beach, Brooks hadspent more than 12 years riding with a krewe through the streets of New Orleans each Mardi Gras.
“It’s crazy; covered up with people. I love it,” said Brooks, who is managing the event. “I retired and went looking for beautiful beaches and water, and I obviously found it.”
Crowds can get in on the action during Friday night’s Second Line Parade, Mardi-Gras style. Heat & The Zydeco Gents will play at 8 p.m. while more than 8,000 inflatable beach balls fall from the sky onto Pier Park Drive.
“The real motivation in participating, really, is the outgrowth of the Mardi Gras event in Panama City Beach,” said Brooks, who also is a member of the Parrot Head Club. “First of all, it’s a lot of fun; we have a blast doing it. People love what we do; it all makes people so happy. I love pirates, I love having a good time.”
Scott Williams, known as “The Pirate” on the beach, will join in the weekend rumble. He resembles the character Capt. Jack Sparrow as portrayed by Johnny Depp in the “Pirates of the Caribbean” films, but is careful to correct those who mistake him for his famous look-alike. You often can find Williams at Paradise Palms Inn or you might even spot him at a game with the Panama City Beach Pirates, who will make an appearance in this year’s parade.
Del McRae, aka Ransom King Mayhem, is another local living out the pirate lifestyle year-round.
“We all talk in our gruff voices,” said McRae, who started the Pirates of the White Sands group a couple of years ago with his first mate, Tobias Wolfe, in Tallahassee.
About 15 members of The Pirates of the White Sands now travel for sword-fight demos and festivals, camping out in period-correct tents and getting involved in charity events.
“I actually was the school mascot for Parker Elementary,” said McRae, whose children are now in their 20s. “I started doing more true to life about five to six years ago. For Pirate Fest, we are sword fighting. We break into our own characters, own personas. All swords can fight and all are firing weapons.”
McRae owns two fighting swords, two axes, two bowie knives, two rifles — a long barrel and a short — as well as replica .50-caliber and .63-caliber flintlock pistols, circa 1776.
His costumes have come a long way from his “cheesy Capt. Hook.”
“Most pirates make all their clothes,” said McRae, whose day job is as maintenance supervisor at a beach condo. “My family has been in St. Augustine close to 200 years, so pirating is in the blood.”
Some of the members of the Pirates of the White Sands also are members of the Society for Creative Anachronism, led bycollegiate rapier instructor Marcel Hildebrand. The SCA pirates will be masked for sport combat against each other in the Pirate Invasion, portraying good and bad characters.
FrontBeachRoadwill be closed during the invasion, scripted again this year by Spencer.
On Saturday afternoon, the 44-foot double mastiff Gulf Wind Sailing Ship and the Sea Dragon will pass the County Pier, where pirates will be firing cannons as they sail by. As pirates attempt to get keys to the city and its treasures from Mayor Gayle Oberst, expect to see a showdown of explosive proportions.
“I think everybody wants to sail the open seas, be rescued and find treasure,” Spencer said.
Tom Mason and the Blue Buccaneers will take the Pier Park stage at 8 p.m. with rousing sing-along drinking songs, ballads and tales, as dueling fireworks from City and County piers go out over the Gulf and another beach battle comes to an end.
PIRATES OF THE HIGH SEAS FEST
- What: Parades, children’s activities, costume contests, music, Beach Ball drop, pirate invasion, fireworks
- When: Oct. 5-6
- Where: Pier Park, Panama City Beach
- Admission: Free
- Details: VisitPanamaCityBeach.com
Friday, Oct. 5
6 p.m.: Pirate and Wench (Adults) Costume Contest at Pier Park stage
6:20 p.m.: Pet Costume Contest at Pier Park stage
7 p.m.:Second Line Parade, Mardi Gras style with pedestrians, begins at Back Porch
8 p.m.: Beach Ball Drop; money awarded for winner of Scavenger Hunt (Sept. 30-Oct. 4); Heat & The Zydeco Gents
Saturday, Oct. 6
7:30 a.m.:Run for the Treasure: Girl’s Inc. Half Marathon, 5K and Treasure Run at Aaron Bessant Park; registration opens at 6:30 a.m.
Noon: Children’s Pirate Costume Contest at Pier Park Stage and children’s activities
4 p.m.: Sea Battle on the beach at City Pier
4:30 p.m.: Pirate Invasion, Beach at City Pier; children’s parade embarkation from City Pier (to ride in parade, children must be dressed as a pirate or wench and be accompanied by an adult)
4:45 p.m.: Children’s Parade, Pier Park Drive
6:30 p.m.: Pirates of the High Seas Main Parade, Pier Park Drive: Royal pirates from the Krewe of Dominique Youx strut the streets alongside winners of costume contests and street performers to the Circle for music.
8 p.m.: Dueling Fireworks:Battle of the High Seas between County and City Piers as a pirate ship arrives offshore; Tom Mason and the Blue Buccaneers