October 28, 2013

Pirates and visitors swarm Ocracoke for first
annual Blackbeard Jamboree…WITH SLIDE SHOW


History re-enactors call what they did over the weekend at the First Annual Blackbeard’s Pirate Jamboree on Ocracoke “time tripping.”

“This is as authentic as you can get,” explained Bill Burgess, one of the Devilmen of Cape Feare, after the “Battle of Ocracoke” in Silver Lake with three period boats and lots of gunpowder making loud reports.

Burgess and dozens of other pirate re-enactors take special pride in having their costumes and experience authentic to the period of the 1700s.  That means having the same fabrics for clothing and shoes, buttons, tents and even period food, which was prepared over an open fire in a large black cauldron in the yard of 161 Irvin Garrish Highway where Blackbeard’s Crew, a living history re-enactment group had camped for the weekend.  The Devilmen had made camp on the harbor side of the property.

Burgess is a retired deputy sheriff and history buff who does other re-enactments, such as the two World Wars, the Vietnam War and the British Army Zulu War of 1879.  The nirvana for re-enactors is the feeling when everything comes together of actually being in the past.

“If you can feel, even for one moment, that you’re actually there, it’s called ‘seeing the elephant,’” he said. “I’ve seen it twice.”

Once, he said, was during a World War I nighttime trench warfare battle at Newville, Pa., as bullets strafed the night sky.  The other was during a Civil War re-enactment with the 120th unit in Franklin, Tenn.

“It hits you like a truck,” Burgess said of the feeling of truly being back in time.

Mostly, re-enactors have a passion for history and the times, added Madame Grace of Blackbeard’s Crew.

“Our whole effort is to ignite peoples’ imaginations,” she said.

John Collamore, or “Dutch,” as he is called in the crew, conducts 18th navigation demonstrations with period tools to the North Carolina and Virginia standards of learning for math and geometry for fourth and fifth grade.

“I love to see the light go on as to how we use a compass to navigate a course,” he said about his demonstrations.  “It’s great to see the kids connect math to something real like this.”

Saturday morning, the jamboree began with pirates on period ships shooting at pirates on the land.

“We’re gonna get you, Blackbeard,” yelled one from the dock at the Devilmen encampment as he shot his pistol to no avail at a taunting Blackbeard, played by Todd Willis.

“What? Is your powder wet?” Willis with arms outstretched yelled from aboard the Meka II, which was outfitted as Blackbeard’s boat The Adventure.  “I hear (the bullets) whizzing by.”

At 3 p.m., the main re-enactment battle between Blackbeard and Lt. Robert Maynard amid more cannon fire and narrated by author-historian Kevin Duffus culminated in a swordfight aboard The Adventure. Maynard hoisted  Blackbeard’s head for all on land to see.

“The battle was brilliant,” noted Ryan Papa, a friend and roadie for Blackbeard’s Crew. “My favorite part was when they cut off his head. It was better than the battle at the Hampton Pirate Festival.”

The event concluded Sunday with the march to Springer’s Point by the pirates to commemorate the fallen Blackbeard and his crew. About 50 festival-goers joined the dozen pirates who mustered at Blackbeard’s Lodge on Back Road and walked along Lighthouse Road to the soundside beach.

After a recitation by Duffus of the events that occurred there Nov. 21, 1718, Willoughby Caught, chantey master for Blackbeard’s Crew, sang two original songs about the pirate. Hatchet Meg tossed the commemorative wreath that she had made into the water. A report from The Adventure off shore concluded the service.

“This was a lot of fun,” said Chris McLean of Yardley, Pa., who came to Ocracoke for the week with his family especially for the event. “We went to the scallywag school and learned to hold a sword.”

Musical accompaniment throughout the weekend was provided by the six-member Motley Tones from Raleigh, singing sea chanteys, drinking songs, and bawdy songs especially for adults Saturday evening outside of Natural Selections in the Bawdy Beer Garden.

“This was my most favorite festival all year,” said Cindy Clark, one of the Tones, who has been to at least a dozen pirate festivals this year. “Everyone was so friendly and the crowds were very engaging.”

Business owners noted at increase of traffic in their stores.

“Business was up,” noted Mickey Baker owner of the Mermaid’s Folly. “It was a beautiful day and a lot of fun.”

“The festival brought more people here than I thought it would,” noted Rich Corbin, who works at Ride the Wind Surf Shop.

“It was cool,” added Bob Chestnut, Surf Shop owner. “We watched the boat battle from upstairs.”

Trudy Austin, a cashier at the Ocracoke Variety Store, said she heard a lot of positive feedback from the community.

Daphne Bennink, who spearheaded the event three years ago, was pleased that the weather was good for the first time in three years, allowing the festival to happen.

“We couldn’t have asked for a better first Jamboree,” she said. “The weather was beautiful, the attendance was great and the participation on all levels exceeded our expectations. We are so proud of what we accomplished.”

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