Fort Lauderdale Pirate Festival Launches at Esplanade Park
Photo by FujifilmGirl

Fort Lauderdale Pirate Festival Launches at Esplanade Park

Ahoy, matey, have ye a brand-new eye patch and nowhere to wear It? Are ye disappointed there is no new Pirates of the Caribbean movie coming out this summer? Are ye suffering the effects of scurvy? If ye answered "aye" to any of these questions, the inaugural Fort Lauderdale Pirate Festival just might be the event for you. If you have scurvy, you might want to see a doctor first, but after that, next Saturday, May 12, from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., head to Esplanade Park on the New River in downtown Fort Lauderdale.

The Fort Lauderdale Pirate Fest is all ages and offers plenty of activities for the kiddos, including face painting, arts and crafts, and a children’s area with a large climb-aboard pirate ship where they can channel their inner Jack Sparrow. Adults will also have plenty of options. There will be a beer garden, food vendors, a competition to find the best rum in Fort Lauderdale, and pirate costume contests for humans and pets. For seafaring types, a paddleboard race will determine who can paddle their plank fastest.

Pirates have long had a special connection to South Florida. Almost as soon as European explorers came to our peninsula, there were pirates right behind them, ready to plunder with a merry "yo-ho-ho and a bottle of rum." Since then, pirate-themed festivities have popped up. In 1967, Pirate's World opened in Dania Beach, which not only had pirate themed rides but also drew classic-rock legends such as Led Zeppelin, David Bowie, and the Grateful Dead. If you grew up in Miami in the '80s, you likely spent hours playing videogames at Pirates off Coral Way.

This newest celebration of pirates spun out of the Rotary Club's annual pirate-themed raft race, where handmade rafts and pirate rowboats would sprint to see who had the speediest craft. This year's race will also award trophies for most pirate-like craft, most creative craft, most pirate-like crew, and best branding craft, but there will be an entire day of peg-legged and hook-handed activities surrounding the raft race.

Best of all, because times are tough for pirates in the 21st Century, you will not have to dig into your booty to attend — admission is free. But all proceeds collected from vendors and activities will go toward the Rotary Club of Fort Lauderdale's 1090 Foundation, which provides college and vocational scholarships for deserving local high-school seniors and funding for community service projects.

Fort Lauderdale Pirate Festival. 11 a.m. Saturday, May 12, at Esplanade Park, 400 SW Second St., Fort Lauderdale; 954-424-0731; ftlpiratefest.com. Admission is free.

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