by Connie Leinbach
Pirates are poised to invade Ocracoke Island the last weekend of October in a celebration of the last days of Blackbeard with the First Annual Blackbeard’s Pirate Jamboree, a weekend, family-friendly pirate festival Friday, Oct. 25 to Sunday, Oct. 27. Three years in the making, the chief activity of the jamboree will be historically authentic encampments and ship battles by four professional re-enactment pirate crews.
“We are really excited about how this bigger-and-better event is shaping up, including an overwhelming response from the pirate community,” noted Daphne Bennink, owner of The Back Porch, who spearheaded the event. “Not only will this be an amazing educational entertainment for visitors, but it also will give a boost to the local economy.”
Various pirate re-enactors are gearing up to travel to Ocracoke because of the historical significance here for Blackbeard.
“The pirates are excited about coming here because this is the only place with authenticated Blackbeard history,” noted Chip Stevens, owner of Blackbeard’s Lodge and one of the event organizers. Since this event is an unofficial close of the pirate season, re-enactors and aficionados can walk around and have fun, Stevens said. Locals and visitors alike are encouraged to join in the fun and don pirate attire.
Blackbeard’s Pirate Crew, a 12-member living history organization from Hampton, VA., will camp Saturday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on the grounds of the historic Wahab House, 161 Irvin Garrish Highway, while the Devilmen of Cape Feare will be docked on the longboat Florie. Outfitted in historical costumes from the 17th and early 18th centuries, pirates will engage the audience with storytelling, sea chanteys, sword play and demonstrations of vintage black powder weapons.
The premier event will be an authentic ship-to-ship battle Saturday afternoon at 3 in Silver Lake harbor as Blackbeard’s crew meets up with Lt. Robert Maynard in “The Battle at Ocracoke.” Captain Horatio Sinbad on the brigantine Meka II and the Ada Mae, a skipjack out of New Bern, will re-create the last hours of Blackbeard and his crew with cannons blazing.
“They’re bringing a lot of gun powder and shooting it off at the end of the season,” Stevens said. “There will be lots of explosions.”
Following that will be bawdy songs in the “Bawdy Beer Garden” on the Books to be Red grounds along School Road until 7 p.m.
The event kicks off Friday in two locations—The Ocracoke School PTA Halloween Carnival from 5 to 10 p.m. An annual fundraiser for the school, this costume event is a natural fit for the jamboree.
A pirate meet-and-greet, sponsored by the Ocracoke Civic and Business Association, will be held in the Ocracoke Community Center from 7 to 9 p.m., with a mock trial, conducted by historian-author Kevin Duffs to weigh the evidence on the fates and identity of “Blackbeard the Notorious Pyrate” and his crew. Grog and hors d’oeuvres will be available along with music by the “Motley Tones,” a pirate minstrel group.
Among the many activities for the festival include “Blackbeard’s Market” in Community Square, a treasure hunt through Ocracoke businesses, sing-alongs, sword fight demonstrations and more. There will be a pirate movie for kids in Deepwater Theater and a “Little Pirates” craft at the Ocracoke Preservation Society museum.
In his Saturday afternoon talk, Duffus will unveil some newly discovered information about the pirate who has inspired so many for so long during his Saturday afternoon talk.
“I will present newly researched information that will shift how the Blackbeard story is told,” Duffus said. “I also will reveal the true nature of Blackbeard’s treasure and where it is.”
The weekend will culminate with a memorial service Sunday morning for those killed in Blackbeard’s last battle. Pirates will gather at 10 a.m. at Blackbeard’s Lodge, 111 Back Road, and then walk along Lighthouse Road to Springer’s Point Nature Preserve. As Meka II and Ada Mae stand off-shore, a eulogy will be read and a wreath laid, followed by a broadside salute.
This is the first year of this jamboree (despite its having been canceled in 2011 and 2012 due to hurricanes Irene and Sandy), building up to a grand event in 2018–the 300th anniversary of Blackbeard’s death. Organizers want the yearly dates for the event to be the last week in October since it is close to the actual Nov. 21 date of Blackbeard’s demise.
Parking for the event is available at the National Park Service parking lot, 4352 Irvin Garrish Highway.
The complete schedule is posted on the website www. piratejamboree.com and the Facebook page: Ocracoke/Hatteras Pirate Jamboree.