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HAMPTON - The weather will be much different for this year's Blackbeard Pirate Festival than it was last year, when a tornado tore through the area. There was a lot of damage, but no serious injuries.

For this weekend, the weather will just be hot for those who will pillage and plunder their way through downtown Hampton.

The festival celebrate Hampton's rich maritime heritage by commemorating the demise of our most infamous visitor, Captain Edward Teach, a.k.a. Blackbeard the Pirate.

City officials expect about 50,000 people - including Blackbeard and his crew of authentically-costumed pirate re-enactors - to attend the three-day event.

The festivities kick off Friday night, May 31, 7:00 p.m. 11:00 p.m., at the Crowne Plaza Hampton Marina Hotel with the 14th annual Grand Pirates Ball (creative black tie or period attire enforced). The celebration, a recreation of Blackbeard's Party at Okracoke, will feature Caribbean food, adult beverages, live music, and more. Though the festival is free, there is an admission charge for the ball. Tickets are $35 in advance and $40 at the door.

Saturday's activities include a swarm of extemporized street skirmishes between pirates and militia (costumed interpreters), a replica of Blackbeard's pirate camp, complete with living history interpreters teaching the skills of the sailor circa 1700, and the trial and escape of William Howard, one of Blackbeard's fellow pirates with ties to Hampton. There also will be a re-enactment of the classic sea battle between Lt. Maynard and Blackbeard, featuring two full - scale replica vessels in the Hampton Harbor. At the conclusion of the sea battle a presentation ceremony takes place in which Blackbeard's severed head will be bestowed upon Virginia Governor Alexander Spotswood (1710-1722).

Visitors can participate in the festivities when they join Blackbeard's funeral parade, Hampton's own version of Mardi Gras, and share in the booty from the treasure chest. This year, the Hampton Blackbeard Pirate Festival welcomes three tall ships to the downtown docks: MEKA II, Serenity, and Bonny Rover. Based in Beaufort, NC MEKA II has an overall length of 54' and is a 2/3 - scale replica of an 17th Century, two masted pirate brigantine armed with 8 cannons. Her homeport is Beaufort, North Carolina where locals and tourist take pride in her ongoing efforts to preserve maritime heritage. The 65' gaff rigged schooner Serenity was built in 1986 in North Carolina. Serenity is currently offering Pirate Cruises and Private Charters for Yorktown Sailing Charters in Yorktown. Bonny Rover, a gaff-rigged topsail schooner, is an updated design of an 18th-century revenue cutter. Free tours of all three tall ships will be given over Blackbeard weekend.

There will be a children's area and a Pirate camp, where you can learn how to use a cutlass, load a cannon, or even sing a sea chantey at Pirate's Cove and you can rub elbows with local swashbucklers in Silkie's Hyde Tavern, a rustic tavern-style throwback to what a Hampton bar would have looked like in the 18th century.

Saturday wraps up with a fireworks display over the Hampton River at 9:00 p.m.

For a complete list of events and times, click here.

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