Playing Pirate: While to some the Pirates may seem like a bunch a men playing dress-up for a day, being a Seafair Pirate is a serious commitment. They are a well-respected non-profit organization that, in addition to their many parade appearances, make hundreds of visits to hospitals, nursing homes and wide range of charity functions.
Pirating for the goodwill of the community
A loud cannon blast and a gunpowder smoke cloud causes the kids to shriek in terror and delight. The parade is nearing its end and here come the men most kids have been waiting for. Dragging their swords and axes, the Seafair Pirates are the highlight of hundreds of events each year.
A Seattle icon, the Seafair Pirates have been a Seafair favorite since the 1950's. Originally members of the Washington State Press Club's Ale & Quail Society, the Pirates banded together to promote Seattle and Seafair while having fun and serving the community.
"Basically, they needed a gimmick, a stunt and that was us," explained Captain-Elect Lance "Clapeye" English.
But since then the organization has become much more than just a stunt or gimmick, they are a well-respected non-profit organization that, in addition to their many parade appearances, make hundreds of visits to hospitals, nursing homes and wide range of charity functions. They also support the Seafair Pirates Holiday Treasure Chest. a non-profit which gives away over 20,000 toys each year and has served thousands of families with clothing, food and gifts at Christmas.
"Like the Elks lodge or Lion's Club, the Seafair Pirates is an all-volunteer organization. Everything comes out of your own pocket, and we give to charity organizations," said English. "It's about bringing goodwill to the community."
While to some the Pirates may seem like a bunch a men playing dress up for a day, being a Seafair Pirate is a serious commitment.
"As we're a purely volunteer organization, our embarrassing secret is that most of us have day jobs," joked Mike "Bugs" Devine, Seafair Pirates president.
The process of becoming a Pirate takes a full year of candidacy, during which time a mentor teaches you the skills of the trade but also watches you to see how you work with the public and the other Pirates.
"We're not exclusive just particular," said Devine.
Devine, a Phinney Ridge resident, said he has been a pirate fan his whole life, and was first introduced to the Seafair Pirates when he came to Seattle to attend UW. In 2003, he decided to join the Pirates.
"I had no idea the time commitment it takes to be a Seafair Pirate, but it's hours upon hours spend with people who are thrilled to see you," said Devine.
Devine said being a Pirate and interacting with kids helped him prepare to become a dad.
"As the youngest, I never grew up with kids and I was never particularly good with them. Working for six years as a Pirate before I had my son helped me be a dad," he said. "My three-year-old son is into [me being a. When I'm getting ready he asks if I'm going to 'play pirate'."
English, a born and raised Seattlite, has been a Pirate for since 2002 and said he joined to be part of a tradition.
"I was always a Star Wars geek but I grew up in Greenlake and went to the Seafair Parade every year. I'm in it for the heritage," he said. "Ten years later I have friends all over the world because of Pirates and I have gotten to meet more people, heard more stories than I had ever expected."
Being a Seafair Pirate is a real point of pride for both men.
"It's really great that in a city that has a tendency to knock things down -- the Kingdome, the Viaduct-- we have 63 years of history and we're still running," continued English. "We're a local icon. We're genuinely Seattle."
English said that people should consider joining the Seafair Pirates over another non-profit organization "if you want to give back to the community in a very visible way".
"It's piracy for the good of the community," he said. "Just remember, Pirates are role models. If you can trust a pirate who can you trust?"
The 62nd annual Greenwood Seafair Parade is coming up on Wednesday, July 25th from 6:00 p.m. until 8:30 p.m. The parade—which is the oldest neighborhood Seafair sanctioned parade in the region—runs south along Greenwood Avenue from North 95th Street to North 85th Street, and then heads west to 6th Avenue Northwest. Thousands of people typically line the route. The parade features over 100 entrants including bands, drill teams, horses, dogs, floats, pirates and more.