Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Portland Pirate Festival 2009

This year we finally got the majority of the family to the Portland Pirate Festival. The first year of the festival, I attended the festival alone and covered the festival for the St. Johns Sentinel. The next couple of years, Wanda, Amber and Makayla attended with me, and Ryker attended last year even though he was only a couple of weeks old. This year, we went all out and even brought Greg and Nikki (and all of us were in costume, I might add). Unfortunately, Jeremy, Kristin and Jocelyn weren't able to be with us. Had they been, it would have been truly a terrific festival. Wanda and I hope we get to attend the Arizona Ren Faire with them in the spring of next year.

We did get quite elaborate this year. I had the idea to decorate one of the Radio Flyer wagons as a pirate ship and had thought to simply add some cardboard cutouts and a flag to the wagon and that would be it. Once I made the suggestion, though, Wanda, Amber and Greg took off running with it. Amber drew ship outlines onto plywood and Greg cut them out and designed a method to mount them onto the wagons, and added some neat modifications such as cup holders, restraints for the handles, mounts for the pirate flags, and cannons on the port and starboard sides. Amber designed images for the ships and Wanda painted them with bright colors. Amber and I added cannon balls and fake smoke to the cannons. Pretty quickly we had a two ship squadron of pirate vessels. They were certainly a hit at the Pirate Festival. We had to stop every few feet for folks to take photos. It certainly didn't hurt that we had a couple of cute pirates manning the rails.

Wanda made Ryker a cute little pirate's outfit and we bought one for Makayla some weeks before the festival. With all the costume materials at our place, we didn't have any difficulty coming up with appropriate outfits for all the adults. We remembered to bring blankets this year to watch the shows, and we even thought to bring a tarp for the wet ground.

When we arrived the the gypsies were on stage, and while they were quite fun to watch, the kids had little interest in them. So we spent the first hour of the festival checking out the shops, the food vendors, and the children's play area. There were definitely fewer vendors this year, and fewer activities for the children. Many of the same entertainers were there, though, including the Boom Pirates, Captain Bog and Salty, and the belly dancers.

There seemed to be lots more attendees in costume this year, though the Saturday crowd was smaller. I think the smaller crowd was due to the weather. The lack of vendors was probably due to the economic downturn. I suspect many of them went out of business over the last year. Still, there was plenty to see and do. The food was plentiful, there was a beer garden, and the weather turned out to be quite nice for the festival.

Of course, the reason Makayla came to the festival was for Captain Bog and Salty. For the entire week leading up to the festival, she had us playing the Captain Bog CD and specifically Nellie the Elephant and The Pegleg Tango so she and Ryker could dance to the tunes. Ryker especially loves the Nellie the Elephant song. It has a part where the song starts out on a long, low note and then rises to a very bouncy and bright chorus. During that crescendo he just starts giggling and laughing in anticipation and then when the chorus arrives, he bobs and dances his little heart out.

The band got off to a rough start. There was a power failure about 10 minutes into their show (their portable generator died), but they recovered nicely and put on an excellent show for the kids. Ryker and Makayla both had a grand time dancing to the songs, as did all the other kids there, including some "big kids" who looked to be well into their 20's and 30's. They seemed to be pirate groupies.

Rogue Brewery had a tent set up with several varieties of beer and wine and well as some quite delicious pizza. The Pirate Wenches serving there were easy on the eye, and the beer was easy on the throat. There were plenty of other food vendors with delicious treats as well. Chowder bowls made from bread and filled with New England style clam chowder seemed to be quite popular as did the African dishes. As can be expected with any festival there were also sweet treats such as elephant ears and a very interesting rosemary lemonade.

A big part of any festival for me, though, is watching, photographing and interacting with the people who attend and get into the spirit of the event. When you're in costume yourself, the interactions are friendly and fun, and I had a number of short conversations with various groups of people throughout the day. All of them were quite willing to pose for me and happy to have their photo taken.

Here are some of the images taken throughout the day:

Wanda had a lovely costume complete with boots, chains, a hat and a wonderful smile:

A small group of Pirate Wenches looking quite lovely in their festive attire:

Here's the lovely lass who ran the games for the smaller children. She's been a fixture at the festival for at least a couple of years.

The Beer Wench and a lucky customer from the Rogue Brewery Tent:

After we had been at the fair for a couple of hours, we met some of our daughters' high school friends, Holly and Jenny. They're sisters and Jenny spent quite a lot of time at our house when she was high school with our daughters.

Makayla and her grandmother had fun sword fighting. Makayla's favorite phrase was "Give me your treasure." She seem to be able to wrangle a few dollars out of me, so it must have worked.

Nikki enjoyed cuddling her nephew:

Of course, Papa had fun too - even though his earring got ripped off at least a half a dozen times!

THe Portland Pirate Festival is held every September in Cathedral Park underneath the St. Johns bridge. It's a wonderful setting for a fun event and I hope it will continue to be an annual festival for pirates of all ages for years to come.

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