Tybee Island Pirate Fest

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Tybee Island Pirate Fest - 2011
By Kelli Nottingham








Two hundred years ago, these people would be risking a trip to the gallows! Today, were we in the seas off Eastern Africa, they would be downright terrifying. But these pirates are wandering along the beachfront in full buccaneer regalia, listening to music and celebrating one of the most notorious periods in American history. They are having a great time!

The 7th Annual Tybee Island Pirate Fest sails in for a weekend of relaxation and amusements in the sun. Starting on October 6 through 9, running for three full days instead of two, swashbucklers of all ages and varieties fill the docks and streets of Tybee Island, intent on that most primal of pirate urges, Having Fun.

Now in its seventh year, this rollicking festival has become one of the most popular in the Southeast.

Festivities include a pirate parade and an invasion in which the terrors of the seas overtake the island, forcing the mayor to give up the key to the city. With the exception of the U.S. flag, all other flags in the Tybee Park of the Seven Flags are replaced with the Jolly Roger. The familiar smiling skull and crossbones appears everywhere, from children's hats to t-shirts and mugs. That same grin is reflected in the faces of participants in full pirate costume. Events range all over the island, from the takeover of Cafés to events at the Pier and Pavilion.

Vivian Austin, a digital photographic artist whose work is often for sale at the festival, has participated in the parade (and may do so this year) “against her will,” kidnapped and held captive for the parade by a band of pirates! Impressed with the turnout and the enthusiasm for the pirate motif, she says, "People really get into the theme and character of it, dressed to the nines in great costumes."

There are lots of little pirates, and even some of the four-legged variety. Many people visit from locations as distant as South Carolina, Atlanta, and Florida for the event and to enjoy pirate-themed family entertainment, such as a treasure hunt for the kids. A costume competition and live bands are highlights of the event, and those pirates looking for souvenirs of their adventures found treasures at the vendor’s market, from woodcrafts and plants to candles and artwork.

This year, there will be an expanded schedule of events for the kids at Little Matey’s Cove to include: Black Beard’s Pirate Ship and Pirates, Captain Jim & Krew- Illusion Show, Children’s Costume Contest and Petting Zoo. Highlights include a live performance by The Pirate Charles, an authentic west coast pirate band, as well as the Pirate Victory Parade, crowning of the 2011 Pirate Festival King and Queen at the Swashbucklers Bash, Scallywags Costume Contest, Little Matey’s Cove and Thieves Market. One Tybee native perfectly sums up the fun atmosphere of the Tybee Island Pirate Fest: "Everybody loves an excuse to get out and be festive!"

Photos by Kelli Nottingham
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