In 1977, after a very long absence, pirates once again landed on the shores of Grand Cayman, zealously disembarking their ships and trawling the streets of George Town, swords raised.
Far removed from an actual invasion, the landing was all part of a carefully planned national festival, aimed at attracting visitors to Cayman during the slower tourist season.
While Cayman’s real history with pirates may be vague and probably minimal, that doesn’t stop us adopting the intrigue and allure of pirate legends that is enjoyed by our wider region. As such, the popularity of the Pirates Week festival has kept it going for 41 years to date.
This year’s festival will follow a similar schedule to previous ones, with it all starting in Cayman Brac for three days of events including a bonfire and Kick-Off Party, heritage displays, a parade and fireworks, from Nov. 2-4.
It is Grand Cayman’s turn next, with a jam-packed schedule from Nov. 8-12. The Pirates Week Kick-Off Party starts proceedings on Thursday, Nov. 8, then walkers and runners hit the streets of downtown George Town the next day for a 5K run/walk.
If you’re hankering for a good meal after all that activity, the heart of George Town plays host to the Food Festival which showcases both local and international dishes. The Festival Queen Contest, a fantastic firework display on the harbor front and the Pirate Star singing competition round off the day’s events, all topped off with the popular street dance which sees the capital’s roads flooded with revelers around the main stage. Fireworks cruises are also available for those who book early, giving a different perspective on an awesome pyrotechnics show.
The swashbuckling fun continues the next day as early birds hit the water for the 5K Sea Swim, and four-legged friends strut their stuff in the Pirate Pooch Parade on Harbour Drive. The popular Cardboard Regatta then sees impressively homemade cardboard boats attempt to parade the waters to win cash prizes, before a pre-landing event builds anticipation for the pinnacle of the day – the Pirates landing. This spectacle sees Cayman invaded by boat loads of pirates who capture the “governor” and begin their weekend takeover, followed by the Float Parade. The National Song Competition and round two of the street dance finish off the day.
Nov. 11 sees more events take place island-wide. The 10K run , ‘To Hell and Back,’ takes place in West Bay; the Children’s Fun Day entertains youngsters at Pedro St. James; and there is a treasure hunt at Sunset House.
On the public holiday, Nov. 12, the Culture Shop sets up along Cardinall Ave., joined by another food festival from 9 a.m. to noon. The Culture Jam Contest brings the best of Cayman’s talent to the stage from 2-3 p.m., then revelers get a break until 6:30 p.m. when the dastardly pirates are finally sentenced for their crimes. The Illumination Night Parade, fireworks and street dance close Grand Cayman’s festival for another year.
Little Cayman gets its piece of the pirate pie once Grand Cayman’s festivities are over. From Nov. 16-18, a pirate’s welcome party, street parade, costumes competition, fireworks display, and farewell barbecue are scheduled.
See the full calendar of events at www.piratesweekfestival.com