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Open Wide and Say "Arrr"

"Pyrates" will visit Memphis for the holiday.


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On Labor Day weekend, parts of Mud Island will look like the set of Pirates of the Caribbean.

The change in scenery can be attributed to the city's second annual Pyrate Fest.

Robert Allsup, also known as Captain Robert Darksoul, said the festival — which uses the old English spelling of "pirates" — will be "one hell of a ride for everybody."

"I think it's going to attract a very large crowd, and I think it's going to be a very positive thing for the area even further on down the years," said Allsup, who works as an IT administrator when he's not busy being a pirate. "It's a nice escape to imagine the romanticism and open-sea adventures of what we would think the rebellious, gold- and rum-seeking pirates would be."

The festival will be held at Mud Island River Park on Saturday, September 3rd from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Events include a pirate school for kids, black powder demonstrations with cannons, a pirate comedy show, fire dancing, and live music from Tom Mason and the Blue Buccaneers.

On September 4th, pet owners and their dogs will raise money for the Humane Society of Memphis and Shelby County during "Beer, Bar-B-Q, and Barrrking Buccaneers" at the Maria Montessori School in Harbor Town from noon to 5 p.m. Dogs will compete for best costumes and tricks.

Brenda Canady, owner of Desert Rose Studios, the festival's producer, said the fund-raiser "couldn't be for a better cause."

"I hope everybody comes out with their pups and sticks a pirate hat and eye patch on them and has a good time," said Canady, who also goes by the name Pyrate Mistress Samra.

Last year, the Pyrate Fest was held at the National Ornamental Metal Museum, but the museum was unavailable this year.

Canady said she's both excited and scared about the new location since Mud Island offers larger venues, thus "bigger responsibilities."

The festival drew more than 500 people last year, and Allsup said he expects that number to increase this year. Pirate groups from California, Arizona, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Texas, and Louisiana are expected to attend.

Allsup and Canady are members of their own pirate reenactment group, the Mid-South Buccaneers. Allsup said their motto conveys their attitude; they don't seek to reenact the pirate culture historically but simply mean to have fun with it: "As long as something looks piratey, it's good enough for us. Now pass the rum."

Canady said pirate culture is about living with no boundaries: "It's a sense of freedom for anybody who has a sense of adventure, a desire to explore, and a willingness to say 'Arr!'"

With the festival, she hopes people will experience the culture and wonder and fun that comes with it.

"I want kids to feel like they are on the set of Pirates of the Caribbean and have a great time," she said. "I want adults to remember what it feels like to be free and have that sense of adventure and not have to work — just do what you want and have a great time."

The Riverfront Development Corporation, Mud Island River Park, Hollywood Feed, the Maria Montessori School, and the Downtown Memphis Commission are sponsoring the weekend festival.


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