12th Annual Blackbeard Pirate Festival Returns to Downtown Hampton, Virginia June 3-5, 2011

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Arggh Mateys! Be prepared to walk the plank as the 12th annual Hampton Blackbeard Pirate Festival sails into the coastal seaport city of Hampton, Virginia June 3- 5, 2011. Celebrate Hampton’s rich maritime heritage by commemorating the demise of Hampton’s most infamous visitor, Captain Edward Teach, a.k.a. Blackbeard the Pirate.

At the conclusion of the sea battle Blackbeard’s severed head will be bestowed upon Virginia Governor Alexander Spotswood

Roughly 50,000 seafaring attendees, as well as Blackbeard and his crew, will once again invade downtown Hampton in search of booty during the 12th annual Blackbeard Pirate Festival!

Arggh Mateys! Be prepared to walk the plank as the 12th annual Hampton Blackbeard Pirate Festival sails into the coastal seaport city of Hampton, Virginia June 3- 5, 2011. Celebrate Hampton’s rich maritime heritage by commemorating the demise of Hampton’s most infamous visitor, Captain Edward Teach, a.k.a. Blackbeard the Pirate.

During the later part of the 1600’s and early 1700’s, pirates roamed the coastal waters of Virginia and North Carolina in search of ships laden with tobacco and other goods. The marauders terrorized waterways and unsuspecting cargo ships, capturing goods, sailors and ships. Captain Edward Teach, better known as Blackbeard the Pirate, was the most daunting of these menacing outlaws.

After years of wreaking havoc on Virginia’s shores and economy, Blackbeard’s life was finally taken in a violent sea battle with Lieutenant Robert Maynard in 1718. His severed head was impaled upon a pole near the mouth of Hampton Creek, now known as Blackbeard’s Point, to serve as an unyielding reminder that piracy would not be tolerated in Virginia.

Beginning June 3, roughly 50,000 seafaring attendees, as well as Blackbeard and his crew, will once again invade downtown Hampton in search of booty during the 12th annual Blackbeard Pirate Festival! Interact with Blackbeard (personified by first person interpreter Ben Cherry) and more than 100 other authentically costumed pirate re-enactors as they run rampant on the cobblestone streets of America’s oldest continuously English speaking settlement.

The festivities “officially” kick off Thursday night June 3 from 7:00 p.m. – 11:00 p.m. at the Crowne Plaza Hampton Marina Hotel with the 12th annual Grand Pirates Ball (creative black tie or period attire strictly enforced!). The celebration, a recreation of Blackbeard’s Party at Okracoke, will feature sea chanties, food, beverages, and more. Though the festival is free, there is an admission charge for the ball. Advance tickets can be purchased in the coming months at http://www.blackbeardpiratefestival.com.

On Friday, the festival begins at 5:00 p.m. Weekend activities include a swarm of extemporized street skirmishes between pirates and militia (costumed interpreters), a replica of Blackbeard’s pirate camp, complete with living history interpreters teaching the skills of the sailor circa 1700, and the trial and escape of William Howard, one of Blackbeard’s fellow pirates with ties to Hampton. Tall ships will also be on display along the downtown Hampton waterfront towering over more than 50 private sail and powerboats.

The festival’s highlight will be an exhilarating re-enactment of the classic sea battle between Lt. Maynard and Blackbeard, featuring two full - scale replica vessels in the Hampton Harbor. At the conclusion of the sea battle a presentation ceremony takes place in which Blackbeard’s severed head will be bestowed upon Virginia Governor Alexander Spotswood (1710-1722). Visitors can participate in the festivities when they join Blackbeard’s funeral parade, Hampton’s own version of Marti Gras, and share in the booty from the treasure chest.

Other amusements include jugglers, musicians, a Pirate procession, street entertainers, and a very special pirate-themed Summer Street Fest, a seasonal street party that takes place every Saturday night in downtown Hampton. Of course, no festival would be complete without black powder pirate booty, a.k.a. fireworks! Saturday night (9:00 p.m.) will conclude with a dramatic fireworks display over the Hampton River.

This year, the event will once again feature the Blackbeard children’s area, highlighting The Little Swashbuckler’s Stage. The stage will host several performances, including a puppet show and a variety of musical acts. There will also be a number of inflatable rides, hands-on crafts, contests, and a treasure dig.

In addition, guests will have the opportunity to stroll through Blackbeard’s Pirate Camp where they can learn how to use a cutlass, load a cannon, or even sing a sea chantey at Pirate’s Cove. At the cove, visitors can also explore a collection of 17th& 18th century period vendors selling items such as jewelry, clothing, art, and personal accessories.

Another highlight of Pirate’s Cove is The Bunch of Grapes Tavern, a rustic tavern-style throwback to what a Hampton bar would have looked like in the 18th century. In fact, the tavern is an actual recreation of Hampton’s original Bunch of Grapes Tavern from the 1700s. Feel free to rub elbows with some of the local swashbucklers and be served by wenches.

Those looking for dock space during the Blackbeard Festival are encouraged to contact marinas located throughout the downtown area, including the Hampton Public Piers (757/727-1276), Customs House Marina (757/868-9375), Bluewater Marina (757/723-6774), Sunset Boating Center (757/722-3325), and Joy’s Marina (757/723-1022). Call for details and availability.

For more information on these and other Hampton events and programs, individuals are encouraged to contact the Hampton Visitor Center at 757-727-1102, or the Virginia Air & Space Center at 757/727-0900. For those into surfing the web, try http://www.blackbeardpiratefestival.com.

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