Privateer Day salutes waterfront's colorful history

The event marks Fells Point's 275th anniversary


September 08, 2005|By Sam Sessa | Sam Sessa,SUN STAFF

Privateers will prowl Fells Point this weekend for the first time in many years, though only in dress and spirit.

Privateer Day, which celebrates Fells Point's 275th anniversary, starts at noon Saturday with family activities and runs into the night with a costume contest and grog crawl.

"It's going to be an interesting day in Fells Point," said Mike Maraziti, who owns One-Eyed Mike's and is one of the event organizers. "This is the first time we've done this, so I don't know what to expect."

Daytime family activities include mini-sailboat building, knot-tying lessons and walking or guided tours of the area. As part of the Taste of Fells Point, local restaurants will set up sampling tents in the main square.

The costume contest is at 5 p.m., with prizes awarded to best male, female and child, Maraziti said. About nine bars will participate in the grog crawl, which starts at 5 p.m., he said.

Sea shanty singers will provide entertainment, the Town Crier will announce the historical news, and living-history characters will talk with visitors.

All who attend are encouraged to dress up as who they think they would have been several hundred years ago. Some examples are privateer, sailmaker, wench, sailor, barkeep, merchant or pirate.

Vicki Bokhari, a 33-year-old contract manager from Columbia, plans to dress as a pirate. Bokhari and her friends, who frequent the Renaissance festivals in traditional garb and call themselves Playtrons, enjoy lending a historical tint to such events, she said. She is expecting about 25 Playtrons to attend Privateer Day after the Renaissance Festival closes for the day.

"Fells Point has a fantastic privateer history, and really when you dress up it's kind of like Civil War re-enactors - it's a way to make history come alive," Bokhari said.

In their heyday centuries ago, there was a fine line separating privateers from pirates, Bokhari said. Privateers were sailors licensed by the U.S. government to attack enemy ships. These mercenaries would give most of the loot they stole from other vessels to the government, but they could keep a portion for themselves.

Despite the privateers' speckled practices, Bokhari said, she is glad people want to acknowledge and share an important part of Baltimore's past. For better or worse, it is part of our legacy, she said.

"I think it's fantastic that we're able to celebrate this history," she said.

Privateer Day at Fells Point runs from noon to 10 p.m. Saturday. The costume contest is at 5 p.m. Signup for the grog crawl is from 5 p.m.-6 p.m. in the Fells Point Square. After 6 p.m., you can sign up at One-Eyed Mike's, at 708 S. Bond St. The grog crawl runs from 6 p.m.-10 p.m. Grog crawl registration is $7, which includes an enamel mug and eyepatch. Call 443-287-9899 or visit www.fellspointdevelopment. com/privateerday.html.

Dressing up

Here's a guide for a fail-safe pirate outfit, courtesy of Vicki Bokhari:

Tricorn hat (think Johnny Depp's character in Pirates of the Caribbean). If you can't find one, a bandana or some other form of head cover will do.

Puffy shirt of any color, with a vest

Belt with pouches and lots of trinkets dangling

Random sashes

Black leather boots

Most important, a pirate scowl

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