Last weekend was the 3rd annual Iowa-Minnesota Pirate Festival in Clear Lake, Iowa. This event is produced by our publisher, Greg Schmidt of Festivals International, along with his wife, Bonnie.
The event was held at historic P.M. Park in Clear Lake, Iowa. Clear Lake is famous for being the site of the plane crash that killed Buddy Holly, the Big Bopper and Ritchie Valens on February 3, 1959. They had just finished performing at Clear Lake’s Surf Ballroom, and there is a memorial at the crash site. (Younger, but still older, readers may be familiar with the song “American Pie” by Don McLean. The day the music died is about this crash. Even younger readers may know the “Weird Al” Yankovic “The Saga Begins” about Star Wars Episode 1, which is a parody of the Don McLean song).
But I digress.
The event was just up from the beach, and located in a park area between the P.M. Park buildings, and the roadway. Visually, the side had many trees and plenty of grass, but most directions showed traffic, buildings and other modern things. It was not an escapist themed festival – but a fun pirate themed weekend in a city park.
There was a dividing rock pathway that separated two sides of the event. The event was fenced in with green snow fencing. One side, nearest the beach (and the restaurant’s Tiki Bar) contained two stages, the mermaid (with her small above ground swimming pool), the Forking Queen’s encampment with children’s games, and various merchants. Across the path were more merchants, a third stage, and a combat/fencing area roped off in the middle.
There were a few food merchants including Humphreys’ Concessions (corndogs,wraps, funnel cakes, and lemonade), the Cone Shop (local ice cream place), flavored popcorn, and a full bar building with swings for seats (operated by the P.M. Park restaurant). The bar made it a very nice pirate event, as Phillip, the singing bartender, was making several versions of grog recipes.
Entertainment featured the Fandazzi Fire Circus from the Minnesota Renaissance Festival, Bawdy Buccaneers, Danza Mystique (belly dancers), Flying Eagles Acrobalance, Lord Drake’s Magic, Warwick Pirates, and musical acts Orckes & Trolles and Waxing Gibbous. Various village characters roamed around, including a Jack Sparrow. The Blue Rose Mermaid was a hit with the kids, but she was usually found swimming in her pond, except when she was being escorted around in a decorated wheel chair.
It was a very small event, with maybe two or three dozen tents. Merchandise included jewelry, henna art, chainmaile, and various wood and leather items. There was even a low-cost costume shop, among others. It was a nice representation for such a small event.
A large group of pirates from the Central Iowa Pirate’s Guild invaded on Saturday, helping make that the higher attendance day. Sunday attendance was rather dismal, and the future of the event is in question as the producers decide if it is worth a fourth attempt. It seems folks in Clear Lake are there to hang out at the lake rather than watch pirates swordfight.
You can learn more by visiting the official website at www.iowaminnesotapiratefest.com. If Greg decides to continue the event in 2015, we will share that news here.