BOWERS –– Just by entering Bowers Saturday morning, it was clear something out of the ordinary was happening.
American flags had been replaced with black ones featuring skulls and crossbones. Folks in pirate clothing were milling about the streets carrying swords and muskets.
All of this was happening in honor of the 3rd annual Buccaneer Bash, taking place a little farther down the street on Clifton Cubbage Road.
The morning started off with the startling sound of flint guns going off as a hoard of pirates walked toward an encampment full of canvas tents straight out of the late 17th century.
Bands were playing period music featuring mandolins, fiddles and snare drums while craftsmen were selling wares like woodwork, leather goods, candies and glassware, all clothed as if they stepped straight out of Bower’s pirate heyday.
Carl Popardick, known on Saturday as Levi “Bluebeard” West, is a re-enactor of 40 years and a member of the Sons of the Waves, a pirate reenactment group.
“Everyone here from our group is very knowledgeable,” he said. “We’ve done a lot of research about pirates in the area, but unfortunately, many of the legal documents were destroyed in a fire in the late 1700s.”
Mr. Popardick explained that between 1690 and 1725, Bowers was a lawless land and a major trade spot for sailors, so pirates, even ones as famous as Blackbeard frequented the area.
Due to the lawless nature of Bowers, a local militia was responsible for keeping order in the are and the First Delaware Regiment was on site Saturday to represent the militia.
“This time period is about 50 years earlier than we typically portray, so we have different costumes and are carrying swords when we typically would carry only muskets,” Chris Mlynarcsyk, president of the First Delaware Regiment said.
Colin Gordon, also one of the re-enactors enforcing order played the role of Mayor of Bowers and worked with the militia throughout the day. He stepped in during various skits involving the pirates raiding vendors’ tents and breaking out into fights.
“I’ve been a re-enactor for about a decade now and I love the pirate theme so I’ve participated here every year,” he said.
All day, pirate re-enactors like Bluebeard were roaming around the festival starting trouble with fellow pirates while the mayor and the militia working to keep order in Bowers.
Reconciliations frequently involved sword fights, gunshots and even some cannon fire on both sides but the militia recruited festival attendees to help in the battle.
The militia even got kids involved in the ongoing skit between the pirates and militia supplying kids with wooden musket replicas to enter into “battle.”
Many of the kids attending came in full costume to suit the day’s theme, like six-year-old Kenadi Cole.
“She likes pirates and dressing up, so this seemed like a good event to come to,” mom Jenny Cole said. “I also think the historical aspect is really interesting and it’s good to expose the kids to things like this and explain some of the history.”
Adults also enjoyed the opportunity to get into character too like Bryan Berkenstock, the owner of a leather goods business, Captain B. Pyrate Stock.
“I’ve always been interested in pirates and have been making leather good for about a year and a half now,” he said. “It’s fun to get dressed up and a lot of what I sell fits in with the pirate theme.”
His business’ stand was decked out with pirate flags and leather goods ranging from key chains, to belts and even pirate-style boots.
This year’s event wasn’t only about celebrating the pirate history of Bowers, but also marked the grand reopening of the Bowers Beach Maritime Museum which was previously closed for much needed repairs.
The festival continues today from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Clifton Cubbage Road.