Pirates are coming to St. Croix – the bold swashbucklers of the late 17th century whose exploits wrote a colorful chapter in the history of the Caribbean – to celebrate the first St. Croix Pirate Adventure.
Three days of activities are planned for the Memorial Day weekend in an event planners hope become an annual extravaganza, bringing more visitors to the island during a traditionally slower part of the tourism year.
Other Caribbean nations already host such events. Grand Cayman’s annual pirate festival, one of the more established pirate festivals, draws hundreds from around the world every autumn.
The group that put the event together said they’ve planned a host of pirate escapades for both children and adults, including many special events at historic venues throughout St. Croix.
The St. Croix Pirate Adventure will be a family oriented event that will feature an islandwide pirate invasion, village market, underwater treasure hunt, costume ball, stand-up paddle board races and a pirate trial, unlike anything St. Croix has seen before, organizers said.
The festival is the brainchild of Dan Gaulton, owner of Ales & Others and longtime island contractor and carpenter. The event is held in partnership with the St. Croix Foundation, the V.I. Department of Tourism, and St. Croix Hotel & Tourism Association.
Original members of the organizing committee are Angela Lake, longtime postmaster; Grace Tingle, owner of Coconuts on the Beach; Jacqueline Leedy, a writer, photographer and graduate student at the University of the Virgin Islands; Pi Presto, owner of Freedom City Surf; Sheryl Smith and Simone Palmer, partners in Sand Castle On The Beach and the Beach Side Cafe; and Michael Belcheff, a well-known local pirate enthusiast.
Belcheff, in his guise as Captain Killy, will provide music from his extensive collection of pirate music.
The adventure plans to capture the mystique and excitement of the days of privateers, wreckers, buccaneers and corsairs, according to a news release from the planning group. Included in the festivities will be a tribute to the infamous Caribbean pirate Roberto Cofresí, known as “El Pirata Cofresí.”
The event kicks off at 6 p.m. Friday at Diageo’s Captain Morgan Rum Factory, where sponsors and supporters will joined by the first 125 people at the door to get a preview of the potential events on St. Croix this weekend and into the future.
The fun continues with the Pirate Invasion at 11 a.m. Saturday at the Frederiksted Waterfront, with buccaneers coming ashore at the clock tower and taking the keys to the island from Lt. Gov Gregory Francis in a mock ceremony.
The schedule of events includes:
– 11 a.m. to noon – Pirate Invasion at Frederiksted, Clock Tower. Mocko jumbies and village market featuring local crafts and vendors, a pirate ship bouncer for kids and other kid activities;
– 12:30 to 2:30 p.m. – Pirate Luncheon Kickoff at the Beachside Café;
– 3 to 6 p.m. Costumed Pirate Pub Crawl at Frederiksted Pubs, including the Blue Moon, Pier 69, Lost Dog and Freedom City Surf.
The goal of the organizers is to increase off-season revenues for hotels, restaurants, retail outlets and street vendors; to promote community collaboration; to heighten cultural and historical awareness of St. Croix worldwide; and to create a new vacation designation attraction.
Pirate festivals are popular events around the world, both in cities with rich maritime traditions like Charleston, S.C.; Tampa, Fla.; Hampton, Va.; and Brixham, England, but also in places where you wouldn’t think pirates were a natural fit, such as St. Louis, Mo.; Denver, Colo.; and Portland, Ore.