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Blackbeard Pirate Festival Returns to Downtown Hampton!

May 19, 2017 |

Named one of the Top Five Pirate Festivals in North America by USA Today Travel, the annual Hampton Blackbeard Festival celebrates Hampton’s rich maritime heritage by commemorating the demise of their most infamous visitor, Captain Edward Teach, a.k.a. Blackbeard the Pirate.

During the later part of the 1600’s and early 1700’s, pirates roamed the coastal waters of Virginia and North Carolina in search of ships laden with tobacco and other goods.  The marauders terrorized waterways and unsuspecting cargo ships, capturing goods, sailors and ships.  Captain Edward Teach, better known as Blackbeard the Pirate, was the most daunting of these menacing outlaws. After years of wreaking havoc on Virginia’s shores and economy, Blackbeard’s life was finally taken in a violent sea battle with Lieutenant Robert Maynard in 1718. His severed head was impaled upon a pole near the mouth of Hampton Creek, now known as Blackbeard’s Point, to serve as an unyielding reminder that piracy would not be tolerated in Virginia.

Beginning June 2, roughly 40,000 seafaring attendees, as well as Blackbeard and his crew, will once again invade downtown Hampton.  Interact with Blackbeard (personified by first-person interpreter Ben Cherry) and more than 100 other authentically costumed pirate re-enactors as they run rampant on the streets of America’s oldest continuous English-speaking settlement.

The festivities kick off Friday night with the 18th annual Grand Pirates Bash. The celebration, a recreation of Blackbeard’s Party at Okracoke, features a bounty of food, adult beverages, live music, and more. Though the festival is free, there is an admission charge for the bash.

Saturday’s activities include a swarm of extemporized street skirmishes between pirates and militia (costumed interpreters), a replica of Blackbeard’s pirate camp, complete with living history interpreters teaching the skills of the sailor circa 1700, and the trial and escape of William Howard, one of Blackbeard’s fellow pirates with ties to Hampton. Don’t miss the exhilarating re-enactment of the classic sea battle between Lt. Maynard and Blackbeard, featuring two full - scale replica vessels in the Hampton Harbor. At the conclusion of the sea battle a presentation ceremony takes place in which Blackbeard’s severed head will be bestowed upon Virginia Governor Alexander Spotswood (1710-1722).  Visitors can participate in the festivities when they join Blackbeard’s funeral procession, Hampton’s own version of Mardi Gras, and share in the booty from the treasure chest.

Other weekend amusements include a pirate procession, street entertainers, cannon fire at Battery Point, period weaponry demonstrations, bird shows, and more. Saturday night will conclude with a dramatic fireworks display at 9:00 p.m. over the Hampton River!