Ahoy, me hearties! Cannons fire, swords clash, and pirates swarm the streets in swashbuckling merriment during PirateFest – Greenville, North Carolina‘s signature festival.
The all things pirate event stretches from Uptown Greenville to the Town Common and brings music, entertainment, pirate shenanigans, grub, and grog to thousands of landlubbers and scallywags in Eastern North Carolina.
The festival began in 2007 to celebrate Eastern Carolina University’s centennial anniversary. The event has become extremely popular since ECU’s mascot is a pirate, and the area has a rich history of pirate activity and lore.
The annual pirate festival takes place every April, and Greenville warmly received the 2022 festival after a two-year absence. I attended the event for the first time and had a blast!
When is Greenville PirateFest 2023?
Save the Date: PirateFest kicks off April 15, 2023
Treasures Ye May Find at Thar Greenville PirateFest
Costumed marauders are everywhere during the festival, some of whom play a role in the event, and some dress up for fun.
They love to pose for photos, so don’t be afraid to ask!
Black Powder Demo
Don’t miss the black powder demonstrations along the Tar River (T-Aaarrgh-River).
Most of the cannons used were swivel cannons or lightweight. It took a big crew to operate the guns, so they didn’t like using them. In addition, pirates wanted to plunder, not destroy other ships, so they primarily used cannons to kill people on deck and prevent other pirates from boarding their ships.
The demonstration included about eight different cannons with distinctively different “booms.” Small children might be scared at the sound, but all the kids around me loved it.
Shadow Players Pirate Show
Lively swordfight shows with comedy and silly antics keep audiences laughing and entertained. The professional stage combat group performs several times during the festival, and the audience eats it up.
The show includes swordplay, whip works, pirate chanteys, education, and audience interaction. Fun for all ages.
Visit the pirate encampment for a look at life during the golden age of piracy.
Stop by and watch the mermaid entertain the crowd as she swims, somersaults, waves hello, and dives for oysters. She’ll pick an oyster for a fee, and you’ll go home with a pearl.
Although not related to pirates, Greenville is a hub for BMX activity, with some of the top riders in the country converging here. The late Dave Mirra, who lived in Greenville, helped put the city on the map for extreme biking, and it’s often referred to as “ProTown” due to the number of bikers in the area.
ProTown BMX puts on stunt shows and clinics all over, so this is one PirateFest event you don’t want to miss!
Treasures and Grub
- Hungry for the festival fare? Feast on BBQ, hot dogs, Italian, kettle corn, funnel cakes, snowballs, and dozens of other grub options. Many Uptown Greenville restaurants remain open during the festival, so there’s always that option.
- Quench your thirst with beer, wine, and hard seltzer to soda, sweet tea, and water.
- Are you searching for fine arts treasure? Dozens of juried artists have their handcrafted specialties on exhibit, so don’t forget your doubloons!
- Explore the community booths to see what else is happening in the Greenville area. Some stalls have games with prizes—perfect for the kids!
Other Fun Activities
Kids will have a blast in the inflatable zone where they can slide, jump and get their wiggles out. In addition, kids can learn to swordfight with harmless foam swords in the pirate encampment area.
And for a bird’s eye view of the festival, thrill-seekers can opt for a bucket ride to the sky.
Catch a performance at the uptown stage during the day and the Town Common amphitheater in the park each night. Bring a chair or a blanket for the evening concerts and enjoy a few hours of great music.
For more information on PirateFest in Greenville NC, check out piratefestnc.com