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Plundering Pirates and Swashbuckling Scalawags - Annual FMB Pirate Fest sweeps the shore this weekend

October 8, 2014
Melissa Schneider - Editor (mschneider@breezenewspapers.com) , Fort Myers Beach Bulletin, Fort Myers Beach Observer

Ahoy, all land-lubbers and water-bound mateys. The time has come for all ye pirates to sweep the shores of the island, as the ninth annual Fort Myers Beach Pirate Festival comes ashore this weekend, Friday to Sunday, Oct. 10 to 12. Look forward to three days of continuous and non-stop fun, food, music and more, as this annual festival, organized by the Fort Myers Beach Chamber of Commerce, gets bigger and better each and every year.

"With the addition of more activities and entertainment, this year's event promises to be even more spectacular than the last," said Fort Myers Beach Chamber President Bud Nocera.

"Everything is coming together and it is looking fabulous. We're just putting the finishing touches on it and we'll be good to go. Last year we pulled a much larger crowd than ever before, and we're expecting an even larger one this year," said Belinda Hadcock, a.k.a. Wrong Way Rachael McBride, one of the founding members of the local Skeleton Crew and event director of the annual Fort Myers Beach Pirate Festival.

Article Photos

Avast! Ye ninth annual Fort Myers Beach Pirate Festival will be sweeping the shores this weekend, from Friday evening to Sunday’s end, bringing a trove of pirates and pirate-lovers from all over. Above, the fair maidens o’ t’ Skeleton Crew, with event director Belinda Hadcock, a.k.a. Wrong Way Rachael McBride, smack-dab in the middle. There is no charge to attend, and all pirates and land-lubbers arrrrrrrrrrrrrr welcome to attend! Photo courtesy BELINDA HADCOCK.

The annual fest kicks off Friday evening with a Pub Quest, where roving pirates bounce from establishment to establishment, gathering more pirates for their crew while enjoying island merriment.

"We are going to be dividing into three teams of costumed pirates, each with a team captain," Belinda explained. "Each will be given an identifying pin, setting off in three different directions. The captain who returns with the most crew wins a prize."

The quest begins at the park next to the fountain near Nervous Nellie's at 6 p.m., and sets out at 6:30, returning around 10:15, where the winner is determined, and then the party proceeds to the last stop, Nervous Nellie's.

"The Pub Quest is for the first 300 costumed pirates all welcome to join. Pub Quest maps are given to the first 300 pirates, and on the back are discount coupons from participating venues, including Pete's Time Out, Paradise Tropical Wines, the Yucatan Beach Stand, Smokin' Oyster Brewery, Matanzas Inn and Nervous Nellie's," Belinda explained.

Eateries are offering additional parties the nights of the festival. Nervous Nellie's is hosting a special pirate party Friday eve, and the Yucatan Beach Stand is offering one Saturday, beginning at 6 p.m., featuring Wicked Dolphin rum tastings from 6 to 9 p.m., followed by an adult costume contest with prizes for the winners, including prize baskets from Wicked Dolphin and other goodies from participating merchants and vendors of the annual festival a truly amazing bounty of booty!

Throughout the day Saturday and Sunday, once the welcome cannons fire at 10 a.m. and the pirates parade down to Times Square and back, all are welcome to attend the annual Pirate Festival, offering fun and finds for the entire family and kids of all ages.

Peruse the isle of Old San Carlos Boulevard and enjoy the roving lane pirates, as they sing, dance and provide plenty of fun for all.

"Our roving lane players will be strolling the boulevard all day, featuring sword swallowers, magicians, musicians, hair-braiders and more," Belinda said. "And, our children's area near the Crow's Nest stage will provide all types of family fun, including the Waterball Lagoon (where kids can run around on the water in safe water balls), balloon twisters and continuous family friendly shows entertainment on the stage."

Be sure to bring your littlest pirates to the Kid's Costume Contest at 1 p.m. each day. And, before that, stop by the Crow's Nest stage to enjoy a Kid's Storytime with local author Wilson Hawthorne, who's written a plethora of books, including the "Last Pirate."

Ever wanted to see a mermaid up close? The Florida Mermaid will be fluttering in the fountain throughout the festival!

Also be sure to take part in the children's fishing tournament, each day from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on the docks behind Nervous Nellie's. The first 30 children signed up accompanied by parent/guardian gets to keep their poles, Belinda said.

For those of you looking to add to your Medieval, Pirate, Renaissance collection, the pirate fest merchants and vendor area has been packed to the brim for months, ready to fit any pirate with the perfect accessory.

"Our merchant and vendor spots have been filled for the last 2.5 months, with 50 tables breaming with high-quality, handmade, one-of-a-kind goods from fantastic leather workers, jewelers, hand-made tailors and more," Belinda eagerly stated. "Many of these merchants, pirates and crews travel from all over. A vast majority come from the northern to central Florida area. Make sure you bring your pennies because there's going to be lots of super cool stuff to catch your eye."

Each afternoon, around 2 p.m., three pirate ships and a shoreline crew will battle out in the Clash of the Pass black powder Ship to Shore battle. Watch as ancient cannons and guns fire back and forth at each other in the battle of the bay.

"Don't miss the opportunity to see the biggest, most spectacular sea battle on the local waters! The Pieces of Eight pirate ship, the Black Duck (pirate sailing vessel from the Venice area) and the Black Pearl (captained by Capt. Troy Springer, a.k.a. Capt. Hurricane) are all involved in the sea battle each day, and they're going to be good," Belinda said. "When they're not battling it out, both the Pieces of Eight and the Black Duck will be offering casual cruises through the bay during the Pirate Festival weekend."

The black powder demonstrations you'll see this weekend are some of the best in the country, handled by true professionals who have been in the art of the craft for quite some time.

"Our master gunner, Chris Jones, is coming down from St. Pete/Tampa/Clearwater area, with his group Gulf Coast Black Powder, to join our Skeleton Crew. Our combined crews provide the BOOM for the show," Belinda said. "Chris is our safety master, weapons inspector and Master at Arms, and we all work together each year to put on the show."

The festival coordinator explained that many who are on the black powder crew have been Civil War and Seminole Indian War reenactors, with extensive knowledge of black powder weapon handling and, of course, period costuming.

As for music, get ready for a true blast from the past, as Celtic, Medieval and Pirate musicians entertain the festival masses. Band performances this weekend will include The Craic, traveling from the Tampa/St. Pete region, Arrr Inc., For Love and Money and world-class bag piper Brandon Martinelli, who began in the local Pirate Fest as a battle drummer years ago.

"Brandon is now a world-class bag piper, having been to Scotland and France in competitions. He's been doing these shows on Fort Myers Beach since it started, playing the drum for us, and he's now turned into a world-class bag piper," Belinda said. "During this year's festival, you can see Brandon doing a stage show at 11:45 a.m. both days from the Cannon stage, as well as piping for us during the sea battles."

Pair all of these activities with plenty of other pirate games and tournaments, merchant's square, stocked with one-of-a-kind accessories and costumes for any pirate, great and small, and so many other pillaging, plundering activities, and you're sure to have one heck of a Pirate's Festival weekend!

"Bud Nocera and the Fort Myers Beach Chamber of Commerce has been so very instrumental in putting this on," Belinda said. "I do the site work and booking and scheduling, but more importantly, the Fort Myers Beach Chamber is the one pulling the permits and getting everything together they've really taken back the show. We had so many people tell us that last year was the best that it has ever been in a long shot. We'll see you down there this weekend!"

There is no charge to get into the festival, and all those attending are urged to carpool (or ship-pool, for you water-bound mateys), as parking may be tight. As always, there are many pay-to-park lots, and the LeeTran park-and-ride trolley lots will be available.

Also taking place during the festival, the Chamber is offering an all-weekend scavenger hunt, full of a treasure trove of prizes for the winner(s).

For further information on the ninth annual Fort Myers Beach Pirate Festival, visit FortMyersBeach.org/PirateFest, find the event on Facebook or hit them up on Twitter @FMBPirateFest.

About the Skeleton Crew

Belinda and her husband, Steve McDermet, have been attending Renn Faires and Medieval festivals for many years together.

"When the pirate thing became popular years ago, it was just a natural progression for us," she explained. "I'm a Florida native, my husband's family is deeply rooted in the Lemon Bay area they were some of its first settlers, so they're extremely knowledgeable in pirate lore. Plus, we're avid boaters, so it just came as a natural progression for us. We read about the first Fort Myers Beach Pirate Festival taking place in the newspaper, participated in the show with the Fort Myers Beach Chamber, and went from there. Last year, Bud Nocera and the business owners approached me to be event director of the festival, and, of course I accepted and look forward to many more years with the festival."

Belinda's husband is also a licensed charter boat captain, a.k.a. Capt. Robert Flood sea battle coordinator for the festival. Belinda, also referred to by her crew as The Admiral, said her Skeleton Crew came to fruition by attending many Renn Faires together.

"Many also did some other reenacting, like Civil War, and Seminole Indian War reenacting. Others were actors and did other shows. So, when we all had this switch to pirates, it was natural for all of us," she explained. "Our cannon crew had done cannons for Civil War reenactments, so we formed the Skeleton Crew. Our group includes our friends from the Gulf Coast Black Powder and many other actors. We call ourselves the Brothers of the Briar Rose, our ship."

Belinda said her group does what they can to help at local benefits and organizations. If you'd like to know more about the Skeleton Crew, find the group on Facebook by searching "Skeleton Crew Entertainment, LLC."

 
 

 

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