Despite a coastal storm that breezed through the
Outer Banks on Friday, the annual Blackbeard’s Pirate Jamboree was a
well-attended success, with hundreds of buccaneers invading the streets
of Ocracoke Island.
The multiple-day festival and pirate invasion
kicked off on Thursday, October 25, and continued through Sunday, with
live music, historical talks, cannon firings, reenactments, food and
craft vendors, and – naturally – grog, (and plenty of it.)
Well-attired invaders strolled through the
streets admiring the pirate encampment exhibits, perusing the Brigands
Bazaar, or stopping by the Books to Be Red Stage to listen to historic
talks or a few sea shanties. Music by local and visiting bands such as
The Motley Tones and Tom Mason and the Blue Buccaneers popped up at
various locales throughout the village, while sword fighting was on
full display throughout the event, thanks to the incredible skills and
choreography of The Shadow Players Stage Combat Group.
This year’s Pirate Jamboree also had a few
revolutionary changes and surprises in store, due to both the weather,
as well as the event’s correspondence with the 300th anniversary of
Blackbeard’s demise off of Ocracoke Island.
Author Kevin Duffus, who is a long-time organizer
of the annual event and who literally wrote the book on Blackbeard,
(The Last Days of Black Beard the Pirate), teased at the
ground-breaking events to come during a Saturday morning historic talk.
“This afternoon, we’re going to make history…” he said.
On Saturday afternoon, crowds of pirates headed
to the edge of Silver Lake Harbor to watch the annual reenactment of
the Battle of Ocracoke, which is always a centerpiece of the festival.
The battle is internationally famous as
Blackbeard’s last stand, as during this event, British Royal Navy
Captain Robert Maynard, (under the direction of Governor of Virginia
Alexander Spotswood), surprised the notorious pirate in the waters off
of Ocracoke Island. Arriving on the evening of November 21, 1718,
Maynard engaged Blackbeard in battle the following morning, which led
to the pirate’s demise.
This year, however, the battle took place on land
due to the unsafe weather and water conditions in the harbor, and as
pirates and Royal Navy crew members fought it out with swords swinging,
another change to the traditional reenactment took the crowd by
surprise as the end of the battle drew near.
Because this time around, as a nod to the 300th
anniversary of the battle, Blackbeard fought Maynard in hand-to-hand
combat… and won.
“History has been made today!” said Duffus, as
Blackbeard triumphantly raised his sword to the crowd, and hundreds of
his fellow pirate spectators cheered.
It was just one of many moments throughout the
festival that engaged and delighted the crowd, and which showcased the
inherently fun and historic nature of the now popular Blackbeard’s
Pirate Jamboree. Informally starting in 2008, the festival had humble
roots and began as a Springer’s Point Memorial Service for those killed
in Blackbeard’s Last Battle, but over the years, it grew in scope and
size, as multiple days and corresponding events were added, and more
and more visiting pirates joined in the island-wide invasion.
“We’ve heard about the [Pirate Jamboree] for
years, but this is the first year that we were able to actually come,”
said one well-dressed pirate attendee from Virginia. “We didn’t know
what to expect, but so far, everything has blown us away! The music,
the history, the food – we’ll be back next year for sure.”
Indeed, the multiple-day festival covered every
aspect of pirate life, with Ocracoke’s Community Square, Berkley Manor
grounds, Wahab House Lawn, and Silver Lake Harbor brimming with
activity at every moment. Local restaurants hosted pirate-appropriate
food and drink specials and live music on a nightly basis, while
family-oriented magic shows and performances kept crowds of pirates
entertained throughout the daytime.
The majority of the crowd also came fully
prepared for a pirate invasion, with intricate costumes that ranged
from the fun to the historically accurate. Walking parrots and pirate
dogs strolled side-by-side with realistic pirate captains, outfitted
with intricate coats and shimmering chalices, while visitors darted
their eyes from one well-dressed pirate to another. The NCDOT suspended
weekend repair operations on N.C. Highway 12 to make room for the waves
of visitors, and motels and campgrounds were filled with buccaneers who
stayed for the entire event.
Though it’s impossible to count just how many
pirates trickled into Ocracoke Island for the festival, it’s clear that
despite a little stormy weather, the 2018 Pirate Jamboree was a
“This year was especially important to us because
of the ties to the 300th anniversary,” said a regular annual attendee
from Boone, N.C. “It’s just incredible that all this history is right
here on Ocracoke Island.”