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A pirate's life for all was found at festival

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Pirates perform during the Shadow Players Pirate Show at PirateFest on April 14, 2018. (Molly Mathis/The Daily Reflector)


By Ginger Livingston
The Daily Reflector

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Good food, good drink, good entertainment — the makings of a typical pirate’s life — brought thousands to Greenville on Saturday for the 12th annual PirateFest.

Organized by Uptown Greenville, PirateFest has become one of the community’s largest attractions outside of East Carolina University football.

“It was the best event ever,” said  Bianca Shoneman, director of Uptown Greenville. “We had a perfect dose of good weather at the end of a gloomy week. When the sun came out the festival came alive.”
Shoneman said about 35,000 turned out Friday and Saturday. About 9,000 were at the Plain White T’s concert. It’s the largest attendance in the festival’s 12-year history.

“I’ve had people from across the state of North Carolina come just for this,” said Andrew Schmidt, executive director of Greenville-Pitt County Convention and Visitors Bureau. “We’ve had people who planned their visit around this.”

Linda and Richard Specter’s family was one of those groups.

The Specters, who live in Wake Forest, have a son who lives in Greenville and a another son who lives in their home state of Massachusetts. When the couple read about PirateFest in a magazine, they planned a quick family reunion around it.

“Everyone is so friendly,” Linda Specter said. “The people in the costumes, that’s really fun and they let you take a picture with them, and that’s so wonderful.”

Along with the pirates, Specter said she enjoyed the BMX bike demonstration.

The couple said they will return next year.

“Maybe next year I’ll be dressed up as a pirate,” Specter said.

Specter would join a small army of festival goers who sported varying degrees of pirate garb.

Some kept it simple, wrapping a bandanna around their head or wearing shorts with ragged edges. Others went full out “Pirates of the Caribbean,” decking out in bucket boots, tri-cornered hats, breeches, sashes, skirts, corsets and lots of off-the-shoulder tops.

Jeff Reddrick of the Wilson County town of Stantonsburg went an extra step and dressed as a peg-leg pirate.

Reddrick, called Captain Hopper when he wears the peg leg, lost his right leg in an alcohol-fueled motorcycle accident nearly three years ago.

“I’m alcohol-free, a reborn Christian and living life to the fullest,” he said. Reddick turned to pirating a year ago.

“I have sort of a deep voice and I thought maybe I could play a pirate,” he said, adding that it has been fun.

“I kind of enjoy acting. My only hobbies before were drinking and I decided to turn this (accident) into a good thing,” he said. “I like trying to make people happy.”

The peg leg, made by a friend using oak, is a unique accessory among costume pirate players, he said. It is no more difficult walking on the peg than on his prosthetic foot.

“It just takes a few more steps. About 12 — it’s a one-inch step,” he said.

Festival goers in several local restaurants encountered a roving band of pirates — Motley Tones, a seven-person music group. Saturday was their eighth appearance at PirateFest.

“We really enjoy entertaining families,” said Flintz Tones, also called Greg Tarsa.

PirateFest gives them an opportunity to balance performances of traditional sea shanties and bar songs with pirate-themed versions of modern songs.

The Motley Tones “invaded” The Scullery at lunchtime to entertain the packed restaurant.

“We’ve having a great day,” owner Matt Scully said. When the restaurant opened PirateFest was its busiest day of the year, he said, now it is one of many busy days.

“I love it,” Scully said.

Along with introducing festival goers to local businesses, this year’s event had its largest number vendors, more than 120, including an increased number of food and arts and crafts vendors, Shoneman said.

Holy Apostle Greek Orthodox Church is a repeat participant. The church has sold gyros, pierogies, spanakopita and baklava since the festival began 12 years ago.

“It’s our major fundraiser for our church every year,” said Dan Furimskey. Church members donate the food and supplies and all money raised supports church operations, including the monthly rent paid to the Winterville Ruritan Club where they meet.

“Without PirateFest, we would not exist as a church. That’s a fact,” Furmiskey said.

Click on this story at reflector.com to see more photos from PirateFest.