In one of the coolest and most gruesome chapters in local history, in the year 1718 the severed head of the notorious Blackbeard was put on prominent display in a harbor in Hampton — a warning to other pirates that we don't mess around.
That was almost four centuries ago. The head is not there anymore (thankfully), but the legend remains. As a result, this entire region is steeped in pirate lore.
Our fascination with the topic reaches its peak this weekend with the 16th annual Blackbeard Pirate Festival in downtown Hampton. The festival, which is free, runs from 10 a.m.-10 p.m. Saturday and noon-6 p.m. Sunday.
There will be plenty of costumed pirates roaming the grounds, and guests can witness swordfights on land, sea battles in the harbor and a re-enactment of Blackbeard's final battle. Throughout both days, children's activities will be offered. Live music will be highlighted by the Deloreans at 8 p.m. Saturday and fireworks at 9 p.m.
The festival draws tens of thousands of guests each year. Some come in full pirate regalia, with eye patches and bandannas and such. Others just come as they are.
As always, the Blackbeard Pirate Festival kicks off with the Grand Pirates' Ball at 7 p.m. Friday at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Downtown Hampton. Tickets are $35 in advance (until 4:30 p.m. Friday) and can be purchased by calling 757-727-6348 or by visiting Parks and Recreation on the fifth floor of Hampton's City Hall. Tickets are $40 at the door.