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A Feast for the Ayes at the Northern California Pirate Festival

A riotous, buccaneer-worthy extravaganza awaits.


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It’s a plunder-ful life for this costumed captain at the Northern California Pirate Festival.

Photo by Byron Dazey

In Vallejo, there be pirates. The Northern California Pirate Festival will cast anchor over Father’s Day weekend for its 13th annual swashbuckling celebration at Vallejo Waterfront Park.

The festival—the first and only of its kind in the Bay Area—was founded at the height of Disney’s Pirates of the Caribbean craze by a group of event-planner friends who met through Renaissance fairs. “We were in a band, and we’d go sing pirate songs at different places,” says Kathy Kingman, the festival’s director of development and one of its producers. “We were event professionals, and we knew the industry, so we thought, Why not put on a pirate festival?

The resulting effort celebrates the “golden age of piracy”—the period between roughly 1650 and 1720, when thousands of marauders plundered their way across the seas. This year’s event is packed with family-friendly merrymaking at more than 10 different performance stages and areas, featuring everything from multicultural maritime music, to juggling and acrobatics, to costumed pirates and governors. The cannon battles that take place in the Mare Island Strait promise to be a highlight. These thundering, multi-ship spectacles culminate in a land invasion and sword fight. Younger scallywags can study seafaring at the Pirate Schoole, hear tales of buccaneers of olde (and collect their trading cards), and hop aboard the Zipline of Insanity to practice swinging across a ship’s deck. Additionally, about 70 vendors from California and beyond set up shop throughout the grounds to sell jewelry, crafts, and—of course—pirate gear, with wide-brimmed hats and corsets available in a range of prices, no matter how much treasure is in your coin purse.

In past years, the festival has seen close to 20,000 seadogs in attendance. “We don’t hold back any punches. We’re like, ‘Let’s be as big and pirate-y as possible,’” says Kingman. “You don’t get that with any other event. We really try to make it an immersive experience.”

 

The Northern California Pirate Festival takes place June 15 and 16 from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. norcalpirate​festival.com.

 

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