Do you long to sail the high seas with a patch over one eye and a sword in your hand, or cavort with mermaids while searching for ocean treasures? You are in luck. Your pirate ship is about to come in. The Northern California Pirate Festival on the Vallejo waterfront is the largest event of its kind the state. Celebrating its tenth year, the festival unfolds near the Vallejo Ferry Terminal on Father’s Day weekend, June 18-19. With wooden tall ships in the water and ship to shore canon battles, Vallejo’s waterfront becomes a stage for a romp of swashbuckling fun.
The two-day event for revelers of all ages has grown annually. Founders are four couples who are delighted and amazed to find such a big yearning for all things pirates, said Shannon Wood Damnavits, Matrix Event Group publicist. In its ten years, attendance has grown to 10,000 per day, with people coming from all over Northern California. At first drawing mostly hardcore pirate and maritime enthusiasts, the festival now brings families, artists, music lovers and anyone who may want to see a Jack Sparrow look-alike up close and hear costumed musicians singing sea shanties.
For Vallejo and Benicia, the festival is a bonus in bringing thousands of people to town, and also putting the area on the map as an art destination, said Vallejo artist Sherry Tobin who heads up the annual Art Car Fest. Likewise, Vallejo’s Obtainium Works, a hub of fun loving artists and inventors, contributes with a motorized pirate ship on hand during festivities. “The pirate festival brings more people to Vallejo and adds to the art here. It’s just wonderful,” Tobin said.
Why is a pirate festival so appealing? “It’s the idea of adventure, escape and romance and all of the fun and frivolity that comes with our idea of historical pirates,” Damnavits said. Festival-goers see plenty of costumed figures and get a glimpse into the past with living history displays and such attractions as “Pirates of the Secret Realm,” a museum-quality encampment of goods, furniture, textiles and antique weaponry. Children can let their imaginations go wild in such places as “Nybol’s Secret Garden” with fairies and other magical creatures. At the School of Piracy, they can learn how to swab a deck, load a canon, walk the plank and how to talk like a pirate.
An admission fee helps pay for seating, shaded areas, picnic tables and other amenities. On-street parking is free or festival-goers can pay to park in the city’s parking lots and structure near the Ferry Terminal.
Tickets are $10 for adults. Children 11 and under get in free. To buy advance tickets go to www.norcalpiratefestival.com. Tickets are also available at Visit Vallejo in the Vallejo Ferry Terminal, 289 Mare Island Way. Many San Francisco festival-goers use the Vallejo Ferry to get to the event.
“There really is something for everyone in the family when you come out. It’s a lovely way to be outside and be out by the water, and listen to some great music. People just love to come and play,” Damnavits said.