Batten down ‘em hatches, mateys; dem there pirates on the horizon, and they’re comin’ this way
The Seafair Pirates are returning to Mountlake Terrace on Friday, July 26, for the Tour de Terrace parade, an annual event even the members of the pirate troupe themselves look forward to participating in.The parade runs north on 56th Avenue West though the Town Center district to Evergreen Playfield beginning at 6:45 p.m. with a skills display from the Seattle Police Department Motorcycle Drill Team.
More than half of the 54 active members of the Seafair Pirates are expected to be onboard for Friday’s parade, said Rusty Harper, alias “Captain Kidd.”
“Tour de Terrace is one of our most well-attended parades,” Harper explained. The Mountlake Terrace event serves as a warm-up for the pirates each year as the Seafair Torchlight Parade through downtown Seattle always follows the very next night.
“We get into our groove that weekend,” Harper added.
Harper is in his first year as Captain Kidd, the appointed leader of the Seafair Pirates, and the only one allowed to wear red at the troupe’s many public appearances. He also serves as the group’s spokesperson, promoting the Seattle festival whenever and wherever he can.
“We try to be national and international goodwill ambassadors and to spread the word of Seafair,” Harper said.
The pirates make dozens of appearances throughout the year, at private and public functions, festivals, corporate events, children’s hospitals and nursing homes. Their busy season is the four-week stretch of Seafair itself, starting with a landing at Alki Beach in early July and ending with Seafair Weekend the first weekend in August. This year the pirates will make about 20 appearances throughout the area between July 6 and Aug. 4.
The Seafair Pirates were formed in 1949 in conjunction with the creation of Seafair itself in order to promote the festival. With now a 64-year history of creating mischievous fun and scaring children, the pirates are seeing second and third generations enjoying their hi-jinks.
“We now have parents and grandparents coming up to us and saying, ‘you scared me as a kid, can you come scare my kids,’” Harper said.
While the Seafair Pirates try to bring some friendly scares to their appearances, they want to make sure everyone knows it’s all in good fun. A crowd favorite is the big cannon shots from the troupe’s pirate ship / parade float, The Moby Duck. The cannon, made by a machinist member of the troupe, is loaded with real gun powder but no projectile, Harper explained. And the big boom is always preceded with the sound of a loud siren.
“In light of other things that have happened this year, we want to make sure people know it’s coming and that the boom is not something else,” Harper said.
Big blasts from a real cannon, great costumes, enthusiastic members – Harper makes no bones about the reason he is involved with the troupe: “It’s a lot of fun to be a pirate,” he exclaimed.