TENS of thousands of seadogs, buccaneers and pirates descended on Hastings on Sunday (July 21) for the annual Pirate Day festivities.
The town centre, Priory Meadow and the seafront and Old Town were packed full of visitors and residents suitably dressed for the occasion, wearing bandanas and carrying cutlasses.
The popular event, which has become one of the main festivals of the year for the town, drew in crowds from all over the UK, as well as overseas, with some visitors coming from the USA and Europe.
This year it was decided not to go for the world record for the most number of pirates in one place as Hastings already holds it. In 2012 a total of 14,231 sea dogs, buccaneers and Jack Sparrow wannabes gathered on the beach opposite St Mary-in-the-Castle and helped smash the world record which was previously held by Penzance in Cornwall.
Musical entertainment was provided on the Stade Open Space by several bands, such as The Dolmen, who came from Dorset, Pyrates!, from the Netherlands, and Peerless Pirates.
Children from Hastings Stage Studio joined a group of senior buccaneers in performing two pirate-themed shows of singing and dancing, including the dramatic Hoist The Colours, part of their Pirates of the Caribbean epic.
The highlight was five parachutists from Headcorn Parachute Club performing a daring skyfall before landing on Pelham Beach to the cheers of spectators.
A colourful procession of pirates and drummers wound its way through the Old Town in the afternoon, starting in All Saints Street.
Some of the groups that took part included Section 5 Drummers, the Howling Merkins, Sambalanca and Dende.
People were also treated to sword fighting demonstrations by members of Stunt Action Specialists, led by Wayne De Strete.
Entertainment throughout the day took place in Queen’s Square, Priory Meadow, on the replica pirate ship, donated to the town by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Carmelo Masi, professional Jack Sparrow lookalike, posed with fellow pirates and visitors for photographs.
Later on a show was put on by stuntmen from Stunt Action Specialists for spectators where he, as Jack Sparrow, was tried for piracy by Jack Mercer, from the East India Trading Company.
Roger Crouch, organiser of Pirate Day, said: “I was really proud of everybody in the hot conditions. There was an amazing atmosphere and everyone was in good spirits. It was a great advert for Hastings and St Leonards.
“It was wonderful to see so many people joining in the Old Town procession. There were literally thousands taking part in the procession, which was absolutely brilliant and well-marshalled by Hastings Borough Bonfire Society (HBBS), with fantastic cooperation by the police.
“Thousands also visited the exhibition run by Sparrows UK on the Stade Open Space. They’re an amazing bunch of characters, made up of Jack Sparrow lookalikes.
“I would like to thank HBBS, the police, the fire service, the ambulance service and St John Ambulance for their help on the day.”
Rob Woods, town centre manager, said: “Thanks to everyone involved with making the 2013 Pirate Day event another huge success, especially Roger Crouch, John Hough at Priory Meadow, Hastings Borough Council, the performers and all the emergency services.
“Helped by the glorious weather, it turned out to be another bumper day, not just for the town centre but for the town as a whole, in terms of footfall, quality of the offer and atmosphere. A perfect example of what can be achieved when we all come together in a united way to promote and market Hastings.”
Mr Hough, manager of Priory Meadow Shopping Centre, said: “Pirate Day last Sunday was once again an absolutely amazing day.
“The Pirate Ship played host to our Part of the Crew – Part of the Ship promotion for visitors to the town, who came from far and wide, to go on the ship and take their own photos and we had constant queues of families and groups waiting to board the ship. The excitement and fun that you could see the kids having was brilliant.
“The numbers were awesome – a good Saturday sees around 12,000 people coming into Priory Meadow down Station Road from the town centre and the best day so far this year was June 15 when we had the Vulcan display with 13,500 counted. Pirate Day this year beat this hands down with a huge count of 14,500 as people streamed in to enjoy the day.
“Our ship is open for boarding and photographs on Saturdays from 11am to 3pm Thursday evening from 5pm to 7pm right through the summer holidays. There’s no charge, but donations to Pirate Day are gratefully received – it’s with this help as well as from local supporting organisations and businesses that we are able to make such a good day of it.”