Things To Do

Arrr, Matey! The Fort Lauderdale Pirate Festival Returns April 20

Cannonball!
Cannonball! Brittany Eldridge/Claude Rayhome
You don’t have to make the trek to Tampa’s Gasparilla Pirate Festival to party with pirates.

For a second consecutive year, the Fort Lauderdale Pirate Festival is docking at Esplanade Park. The event is a good fit for people looking to party as well as those wanting to spend the day with family. It all goes down Saturday, April 20 from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., and this year's installment features some new surprises.

Perhaps the most dazzling of the new entertainment are the pirate re-enactors.

“My partner in all of this is Bobby Rodriguez, who runs the Renaissance Festival at Quiet Waters Park”, says event chair Kat Martin. “He’s been wanting to bring pirates to the people, and now we’ll have acts to make it that much more exciting. We’ll have five to ten-minute skits throughout with all kinds of banter.”


On top of some new pirate friends to mix and mingle with, this year’s festival will boast dunk tanks, a petting zoo, rock climbing and seven food trucks. For adults, there will be a fully-stocked bar.

Returning this year are three live cannons, four tiki huts that float down the river, and live music. Slated to perform throughout the day are Broward’s own country-rockin’ Rough Shot and the always-rowdy Celtic Mayhew.

The event’s wildly popular raft race is back this year as well, with the race winner taking home a cool prize valued at $200.
click to enlarge The popular raft race return to this year's Fort Lauderdale Pirate Festival. - BRITTANY ELDRIDGE
The popular raft race return to this year's Fort Lauderdale Pirate Festival.
Brittany Eldridge
“It’s completely free to enter the race and you can paddle or kayak, too,” says Martin. “It’s just awesome to watch everyone right up on the steps by the wall, cheering everyone on.”

The 2018 event attracted upwards of 4,000 folks and 8,000 to 10,000 guests are expected this year.

Proceeds from the festival benefit the Rotary Club of Fort Lauderdale’s 1090 Foundation, which provides scholarships to local high school students among other community initiatives.

“Not only can you have a blast, but you can benefit the community at the same time,” says Martin. “We’re all about ‘service above self’ and that’s a big part of the experience, too.”

Fort Lauderdale Pirate Festival. 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday at Esplanade Park, 400 SW Second St., Fort Lauderdale; ftlpiratefest.com. Admission is free.
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Jesse Scott is a Fort Lauderdale-based contributor for Miami New Times covering culture, food, travel, and entertainment in South Florida and beyond. His work has appeared in Condé Nast Traveler, Lonely Planet, National Geographic, and his hometown newspaper, the Free Lance-Star, among others.