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Top Pirate Weekends

With the clash of swords and crash of cannon fire, adult and childhood fantasies come alive at an explosion of weekend festivals up and down the east coast devoted to the Jolly Roger and the swashbuckling world of piracy. If you haven't yet realized that colorfully costumed pirate re-enactors have reached the popularity of their Revolutionary and Civil War-enthusiast cousins, know ye now: Pirate festivals have already been held this year in nearby Wilmington and Baltimore, but there are four more on the horizon for August and September at a few harbours near home. –Jay Lloyd

Rock Hall, MD
August 12 – 14, 2011

Corsairs, buccaneers, lady pirates and pirate's ladies all come together at what has become the region's most rousing and well-attended pirate festival. Locals and visitors strive for the best costumes--some homemade, some bought, but all combine to convey the air of a pirate town, filled with handy recruits for Blackbeard's crew. The revelry begins on Friday evening with a sea-shanty sing-a-long at the Bay Wolf Restaurant and a rum-tasting at the Osprey Point Inn. Saturday comes alive with a massive beach party and a decorated dinghy race, followed by the Buccaneers Ball, an evening of music, dancing, costumes and prizes at the Waterman's Crab house. Meanwhile, the entire town is awash in pirate encampments, exhibition sword fights, treasure hunts and pirate ship cruises for young sea sprogs. All the events are free, though there is a charge for the pirate ship kid's cruise. Restaurant and grog prices here are reasonable. The website includes a schedule of events and maps, and even a sea shanty songbook, so bring your costume, a rubber sword and an appetite!

Getting there: Take I-95 South to Route 1 South, or Route 896 South to Middletown, DE and on to Route 301 South. Take the Chestertown/Galena exit onto Route 290 South. Go straight thru the stop light in Galena (where the road becomes Route 213 South). Turn right onto Route 298. Remain on Route 298 until it merges into Route 20 South. Travel 7 more miles to Rock Hall.

RenFaire Pirates

Pennsylvania Renaissance Faire
2775 Lebanon Rd.
Manheim, PA 17545

The usual fare at the Faire involves jousting knights on armored chargers, serving wenches, jesters and all the trappings of a lively 16th century English castle. But on the weekend of September 17 -18, a pirate invasion will take center stage. The talented crew at the Pennsylvania Renaissance Faire will now transport visitors to a voyage on the high seas and under the black flag. Duels abound, and youngsters can learn the rugged ways of the sword and the swashbuckler. A treasure hunt will cap the day's activities as young scallywags bolt from clue to clue to discover a secret password that opens the coveted treasure chest. A day at the Faire nestled within the pristine Lancaster County countryside offers food, fun and frolic, and the pirate invasion offers another, rarely seen dimension.

What it costs: Adult all-day admission is $24.95 online or $29.95 at the gate. Children's tickets go for $10.95. Buy online tickets here.

Getting there: Head west on the Pennsylvania Turnpike to exit 266 in northern Lancaster County. Follow the signs from there.

Barnegat, NJ 08006

Set your course for the New Jersey shore and historic Barnegat Bay. Time your arrival for the morning of September 10th and plan to drop anchor for the day. The entire town, which is deeply-rooted in nautical tradition, will be taken over by pirates…perhaps searching for the buried treasure, left behind when their seafaring ancestors roamed the Jersey coast. The music of the buccaneers will dominate the downtown stage, while colorfully costumed re-enactors and visitors alike rove along the shops, eateries and waterfront. There'll be games and crafts for the kids and entertainment at every turn. The day will be capped off with fireworks and a live band on the bay at dusk, and events and activities are free. Just round up a costume and become part of fantasy!

Getting there:
From Philadelphia and points west, Barnegat Township can be reached via Route 70 East to Route 72 East, then left on County Route 554 (West Bay Avenue)

Community Center
7 W. Delaware Ave.
Marcus Hook, PA 19061

Since Marcus Hook, the Pennsylvania banks of the Delaware River have been home port to the Plankhouse Crew, so it's only fitting that the town host an annual pirate festival. Mark the dates of September 16th and 17th on your calendar and hoist your own Jolly Roger to join the Plankhouse gang, a bonny bunch of scallywags, for a weekend of piratical antics drawing pirate re-enactors from far and wide. You'll see (and lift!) a tankard with the likes of Valhalla's Pirates, the Skullduggery Crew, the Sons of the Waves and the Brigands. There'll be rollicking music of the sea, swordplay, cannon fire and of course, a treasure hunt. If the life of a pirate re-enactor tickles your fancy, you'll even learn how to join up as a member of the crew. Food and drink aplenty, too, and there's no charge for roaming the encampments and activities.

Getting there: From Center City, steer south on I-95 to exit 2. Follow the signs for PA-452. Go left on PA-452 (Market Street), then right on Delaware Avenue and continue to the pirate encampment at the community center.

Jay Lloyd As Pirate
(Credit: Mary Lloyd)

A few tips: Be prepared to take part in the fun. A costume doesn't have to be extravagant; many women's blouses resemble the authentic loose-fitting pirate top. A red sash and a headband, maybe an eye patch and a rubber sword tucked into the sash, and you're done! For women, try long retro skirts or cutoffs with ragged hems, plus a kerchief or sash and tons of bracelets and beads.

Since the Rock Hall event attracts thousands and ranges over the entire town, check out the town map and plan where you want to be for the attractions. Don't miss the beach party. For singles and couples, the Buccaneer's Ball is a blast. Try to stay overnight.

Learn some of the lingo and a few of the songs, and you're ready!

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