HAMPTON, Va. - Canceled for the last three years due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Hampton Blackbeard Pirate Festival is back on for spring 2022!
"A lot of children dream of being a pirate," said Robin McCormick with the city of Hampton, who says they are expecting tens of thousands of attendees this weekend.
The festival hearkens back to Pirate Blackbeard, one of the most infamous and notorious pirates of all time. Blackbeard was killed by Royal Navy Lieutenant Robert Maynard, who brought Blackbeard's severed head to Hampton. Considered a trophy at the time, Blackbeard's head was put on a stake along Sunset Creek, serving as a warning to other pirates.
Organizers say the festival is the perfect combination of history and fun.
"A good portion of what you might think about happening in places like Yorktown, Jamestown and Williamsburg, it actually happened here in Hampton," said Constable Heartless, or Randy Gnatowsky, the captain of Blackbeard's Crew.
"Much of it is historically accurate," she said. "There are a lot of recreations going on - not just of pirates, but of that time period. Pirates are really serious about their history, but they're also really serious about having fun."
Running several streets long, the festival includes a parade, live music, food vendors, alcohol stands and small business pop-ups.
"I think parents are really excited. This is a kid-friendly event. It's also adult-friendly," added McCormick.
Constable Heartless agrees, saying the family-friendly aspect of Hampton's festival is what sets it apart from other pirate festivals worldwide.
"Here is an event that is family- and children-friendly, always," he said.
Kids that attend this weekend's festival will get the chance to learn about making their own rope, candles and even how to navigate using the stars.
The Hampton Blackbeard Pirate Festival kicks off Friday, June 3, with a meet and greet with the pirates starting at 6 p.m.
The festival fully opens on Saturday, June 4 at 10 a.m. and lasts until 10 p.m., with a special fireworks display at 9 p.m.
The festival also includes a reenactment of Blackbeard's final battle, which begins at 2 p.m. at Dockside with narration from the Maritime Center Balcony.
McCormick says there is something about pirates we can all relate to.
"They were terrible people and did some terrible things at the time, but now romanticizing them, it's the freedom to be who you want to be and do what you want to do. That's something many of us in the modern age really find appealing," she added.
Festivities continue into Sunday, June 5, with the festival opening at noon. There will be a closing cannon fire at 6 p.m.