By Donna Beth Weilenman
Martinez News Gazette
Special to the Herald
The largest pirate festival in the United States gives families a fun option for Fathers Day weekend – turn Dad into a buccaneer.
Whether the family favors Captain Jack Sparrow of the “Pirates of the Caribbean” movie franchise, Peter Pan’s nemesis Captain Hook, the romantic Dread Pirate Roberts portrayed in “The Princess Bride” or the historic sea rogues like Blackbeard and Charles Vane, The Northern California Pirate Festival welcomes them all.
Children who come dressed as pirates may enter a costume contest and win prizes.
And there’s plenty for weathered sea dogs as well as small-fry lubbers alike to do and see at the festival.
New this year is the maritime music duo Penny Opry, which plays seafaring music from North America and the British Isles, as well as American-based music from the 1850s to the 1940s as well as original songs.
After a three-year absence, the Pirates Charles, which recently released a new recording, “Invictus,” is back on the festival’s Tortuga Stage playing their innovative brand of pirate rock music.
Also performing are the Celtic-pirate band O’Craven, Skip Henderson and the Starboard Watch maritime music performers, The Merry Wives of Windsor, Brass Farthing and the Seadogs, a musical group with members who are instrumental in bringing the festival each year to Vallejo.
This year, the mermaids of the Sirens Lagoon will have a special guest, Poseidon, king of the sea. He will join the mermaids, who splash and swim and offer trinkets and treasures to children.
Speaking of mermaids, the interactive “A Mermaid’s Tail” also will be among the new experiences at the festival, who will appear alongside the master juggling duo “The Kondor Brothers” and the colorful birds of Bob Bartley’s Fowl Tales on the children’s Treasure Island stage.
What’s a pirate festival without swashbuckling and cannon battles? This event has plenty of both.
The Brotherhood of Oceanic Mercenaries, accurately abbreviated B.O.O.M., will bring their cannons and defend their treasure against the crew of the Nehemiah, which will be sailing off the Vallejo coastline and firing its shipboard cannons as well.
Morgan’s Companie will lend an air of respectability and order, offering pardons to pirates and capturing the rest, bringing them to trial before the Governor. Visitors will see wooden boats from the pirate era as well as large and small artillery they’ll fire during the battles.
The Court of the Pirate Lords will mix swordplay with humor in theatrical presentations each day. For those who want even more, there’s a chance to take up a foil and get an introduction to fencing.
Serpent Sirens have swordplay of a different sort – the bellydance troupe bring to life pirate scenes while dancing with swords. They’ll also dance with snakes and mermaids.
The ladies of the House of the Rising Sun will entertain visitors with their musical voices and enticing games of chance in a New Orleans setting.
And those who are interested in historic characters will get the opportunity to meet such pirates as Blackbeard, Anne Bonny, Grace O’Malley and “Calico” Jack Rackham.” Those famous pirates will be giving away trading cards with their images.
Visitors will get a close-up view of pirate life through the displays brought by several encampment groups set up throughout the grounds.
For those who want to acquire their own piratical attire, vendors will be selling clothing to please a captain’s eye – or that of his lady. Other artisans will be selling a variety of nautical and buccaneer accessories, foods, teas and spices as well as sundials, astrolabes, steampunk-themed items and fine jewelry.
Elsewhere at the festival, an entire section is devoted to games and rides, including an inflated Kraken slide and a zipline.
Saturday night’s feature is a separate adults-only Buccaneer Bash, with the dancers from Bunny Pistol’s Barbary Coast Burlesque as well as hard rocking pirate bands. The Bash will be broadcast by Scoundrels Inn, the online broadcast that shares pirate music at 9 p.m. Wednesdays at www.scoundrelsinn.com.
While no pets are allowed in the park, animals who are hoping for a family to call their own will get help from the festival, which is supporting the Humane Society of the North Bay. Also present will be the Vallejo Chamber of Commerce.
The Northern California Pirate Festival will take place at Vallejo Waterfront Park, 298 Mare Island Way, Vallejo, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. General admission is $12, and children 12 and younger are admitted free with a paid adult admission. The Buccaneer Bash, for those 18 and older, starts at 6 p.m. Saturday. Admission is $15. Tickets can be purchased at the gate or online at www.norcalpiratefestival.com.