You don’t need to dress like a wench or don a patch to have a blast at the Portland Pirate Festival, which takes place this Labor Day weekend September 1 and 2, 2012. Your kids will believe they’ve entered a real pirate town and if you can get away into Oberon’s Three Penny Tavern (highly recommended) you’ll believe it too.

Family-friendly attractions can be found throughout but there’s an entire ‘island’ dedicated to kiddos. Scupper Monkey Island, at the entrance of the festival, fills the historic Columbia County Courthouse square with kid facing fun. But don’t stop there. This festival is stroller-friendly and on mostly even terrain with access to sunshine, shade, and public restrooms.

Must Sees and Dos for Pint-sized Pirates:
Choose a side. Are you Pirate or King’s Navy? The King’s Navy will be out hunting pirates. Help the Navy or warn the pirates. Wear a costume! Scupper Monkey Island features an inflatable slide, free face painting, puppet theater, and storytelling. Do not miss the Mermaid Lagoon. Check the program for scheduled performances including a kid’s costume parade. Try wielding a sword under the scrupulous eye of Academia Duellatoria and have earplugs at the ready for watching armed skirmishes and cannon fires at Thunder Ridge Mercenary Camp. Keep a lookout for wandering performers as you hunt for inflatable play places and talking parrots. See Rick Huddle and other all-ages entertainment at the Bowsprit Stage where you’ll also take in a view of sailboats on the river.

Must-Know Insider Tips:
This is a boots over sandal situation. The grounds beyond Scupper Monkey Island get a little dusty. Bring your own blanket to throw down anywhere you might want to watch a show or relax.  If you feel like getting out of the fray to breastfeed or change a diaper, duck into a local shop and ask for a place to sit down. Best bets for accommodation: Jilly’s of Beverly Hills, Word for Word Books and Espresso.

The Portland Pirate Festival lacks that commercialized feeling of so many events. While there are plenty of things to spend money on, you won’t find yourself handing out cash at every turn. For the price of admission (see below) a family can be entertained all day with performances, activities and random encounters that may or may not include sword swallowing, cannon firing, talking birds, docile snakes or scallywag tussles.

What’s New This Year:
Nymbol Troupe’s Secret Garden: Unsavory creatures will perform stories of adventure and daring and sing pirate songs. Have your fortune told at the stolen gypsy cart.  Showtimes are: Saturday 1:30 pm, 6:30 pm & 11:30 pm and Sunday: 1:30 pm & 5:00 pm

Download this year’s complete schedule of entertainment including a kid’s costume parade and Ghanan musicians Chatta Addy and Shi Dah.

What ARRRR You Going to Wear?
To prove your visitor status: Skinny jeans and a tank top.

To blend in: Pirate or wench costume.

To get in the game: Go Nautical, Gilligan’s Island, or North Shore.

To fly your freak flag: Circus or Sea Creature

Getting There:
The drive to St. Helens, Oregon (not to be confused with Mt. St. Helens) takes about 40 minutes from Downtown Portland. By Car: Take Hwy 30 NW out of Portland toward Astoria. Travel about 25 miles to St Helens, OR. Turn Right on Columbia Blvd. Continue until it ends at 1st St. Turn right. Festival is 1 block ahead.

Arrive early in the day to take advantage of free parking in a public lot across from the historic Columbia Theatre on 1st Street close to the festival entrance. Otherwise, look for on street parking nearby.

By Boat:
If you have a boat, get in! It will probably take a little more than an hour to get to Saint Helens by heading up Multnomah Channel where you can get up close to the festival from the water and enter via public docks. Look out for pirates who may be camping across the way on Sand Island.

Getting In and Cost:
One Day Admission: Adults (ages 13 plus): $10 advance/ $12 at the gate; Kids (ages 3 to 12): $5 advance/ $6 at the gate; Children two and under are free!

Two Day Admission: Adults (ages 13 plus): $18 advance/ $20 at the gate; Kids (ages 3 to 12): $8 advance/ $10 at the gate.

Advance tickets available at Black Wagon on N. Mississipi, Milagros Boutique on NE 30th and at St. Johns Booksellers.

Bonus Tracks:

How to Sound Smart in Front of Your Kids
“This is like the original Portland. It was the original port before Portland was even a town. This is where all the mail came and it was supposed to be the biggest city on the northwest coast. But the docks kept burning. People think it’s haunted.”

How to Impress the Older Kids:
“Did you know this is where they filmed the original Twilight movie?”  It is. Ask local merchants for a free guide to the movie locations. Disney also filmed the first Halloweentown movie here.

City of St. Helens
265 Strand Street
St. Helens, Or
September 1-2, 2012 from 10:00am-11:00pm

Arrrrrr you going to don some eye patches and Pirate hats for a fun-filled weekend in St. Helens? Let us know if you’ve been to this awesome Pirate Festival or if your kids like ours and merely obsessed with anything pirate-related. 

— Amber Dennis

first two photos courtesy of Amber Dennis; third photo courtesy of Portland Pirate Festival’s Facebook page