Pirates Week in the Cayman Islands is for some the most exciting and eventful time of the year. It’s a wonderful mix of fun events, sporting challenges, entertainment and an opportunity to highlight Cayman’s long and rich culture. No wonder tourists come from all over the world for Pirates Week.
Celebrating 42 years of Cayman culture and pirate folklore, the festivities begin in Cayman Brac from Nov. 1-3 with the Bonfire and Kick-Off party, heritage displays, a parade and fireworks.
Then Grand Cayman takes over for the legendary events from Nov. 7-11 for five fabulous days of music, street dances, competitions, games, food festivals of traditional dishes and drinks, a Pirate Pooch Parade, a children’s fun day, teen dances, two glittering parades, sporting events for all ages, a pirate invasion and spectacular fireworks displays.
The highlight comes on Saturday Nov. 10, the pirates will ‘invade’ the islands attacking from the sea at Hog Sty Bay in George Town harbour. Traditionally the Governor is ‘captured' and the pirates 'run amok' before being cast off again for another year.
Thousands of people line the streets to watch the spectacle and its swashbuckling fun. It's the only event of its kind in the Caribbean and appeals to everyone in the family.
The 2019 National Song Competition is returning to the Pirates Week calendar after a strong comeback last year with over a dozen entrants.
This is the second year the top prizes will amount to CI$10,000 with the Ministry of Culture, the Tourism Attraction Board (TAB) and the Cayman Music and Entertainment Association (CMEA) sponsoring the $5,000 first, $3,000 second and $2,000 third prizes, respectively.
“This exciting cultural event aims to showcase the best talent in the Cayman Islands,” said Ms McField.
Dating back to the inception of Pirates Week, the National Song Competition used to be popular, but it was suspended from the calendar for several years. The CMEA pushed for its return to promote local talent and to create a balance between popular North American music genres and regional genres.
“The National Song Competition pushes for contributions of original songs from locals in reggae, dancehall, calypso, soca, salsa and reggaeton,” said Jeàn-Eric Smith, CMEA president.
“In the early years, it was an integral component to Pirates Week. Everyone who was creative would enter; it was highly competitive district to district. It was what got the people involved.”
The festivities end in tiny Little Cayman from Nov. 15-17. There’s a pirate’s welcome party, the annual parade where on this smallest of the three islands, if 50 people attend, the whole village is out! The weekend ends with a firework display and farewell BBQ.
There is a sustainable aspect to the Pirates Week Festival too; the Pirates Against Plastic initiative and Plastic Free Cayman again join forces for a beach clean-up. Participants are being sought to assist PFC on Sunday, Nov. 10 in cleaning up the beach at Safehaven from 8-11am (parking available next to the North Sound Golf Club).
“We appreciate the Plastic Free Cayman team for supporting the Pirates Against Plastic initiative once again. Anyone of any age and any skill level can get involved and have fun alongside our local pirate characters in this clean-up effort,” said Melanie McField, Pirates Week General Manager.
People wishing to assist in the clean-up are asked to bring gloves and a reusable water container. Some clean up tools will be supplied; ice water and snacks will also be available.
“It’s been so inspiring to see the community come and help at beach cleans. I believe when people come and clean up, they get to see plastic pollution firsthand and then are much more motivated to make some simple changes to their lifestyle,” said Claire Hughes, Plastic Free Cayman founder.
“Pirates Against Plastic is an awesome way to help spread the message to our community that using single-use plastic is not cool. We are hoping to see many volunteers at the clean-up.”
The official theme of the 2019 festival is ‘Shipwrecked’, to incorporate the Cayman catboat – an integral part of the islands’ history – and linking Caymanian culture and heritage to the fantasy festival.
“The Cayman Catboat Club is thrilled to play a more central role in this year’s Pirates Week,” said Jerris Miller, Cayman Catboat Club president. “We aim to bring awareness to the historic and cultural value of the catboat in our country’s history.”
The Catboat Club has long been a part of the annual festivities, displaying the boats at District Heritage Days as well as sailing them in the harbour during the festival season.
“People can also look forward to seeing us on Monday, Nov. 11 as we sail around the Hog Sty Bay, showcasing our restored and newly built catboats,” said Mr Miller.
“The Pirates Week Festival office is proud to partner with the Cayman Catboat Club and Cayman Maritime Heritage Foundation,” said Ms McField.
“We want to celebrate the men and women who work hard in restoring these boats to pristine condition and who spend their teaching children of Cayman history. Many people will note the fantasy and fun of Pirates Week, but we very much want to promote our islands’ history and culture; the catboat is very much a part of that history.”
In Grand Cayman activities are not solely centred around George Town. There’s a chance to see unique aspects of the island through District Days, with cultural displays, traditional food and fun activities for children and adults.
District Heritage Day schedule:
East End: Tuesday, Nov. 12
West Bay: Wednesday, Nov. 13
North Side: Thursday, Nov. 14
Bodden Town: Friday, Nov. 15
George Town: Saturday, Nov. 16
No wonder pirates and landlubbers alike mix congenially at this fantastic festival.
“With more than three 40 events held across all three islands; it truly has something for everyone. We encourage people to check out our events calendar online and come out to the event that best suits your passion or simply come to all of them,” said Ms McField.
Pirates Week is on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter with real time updates, or visit www.piratesweekfestival.com