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Fest wants its pirate crown back

Portland Pirate Festival will try again to beat Guiness record
by: COURTESY OF Byron Dazey, 
Portland Pirate Festival hopes to once again break the Guinness Book record for

The Guinness Book of World Records is full of obscure things, and one of them is the mark for 'the largest gathering of pirates' in one place on the same day.

Organizers of the Portland Pirate Festival say that's a mark they held proudly, but briefly. At last year's festival, 1,670 revelers wearing eye patches, head gear, pirate garb and other accessories were counted, and the number was certified by Guinness as the world record.

It didn't last long. In August, 6,166 pirates were counted in a specially organized gathering at Hastings, England, with Guinness officials on site to count.

It'll be a tough mark to top, but the Portland Pirate Festival hopes to come close when the scallywags assemble Sunday, Sept. 19.

'We're shooting for 7,000 pirates. We're going to give it a try,' says Kate Larsen, co-director of the Portland Pirate Festival. 'In Northern California in June, (a festival) had about 2,600; at least we can beat the Northern Californians, our brethren on the coast, and hold on to the American record.'

The Portland Pirate Festival goes from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 18, and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday ('Talk Like a Pirate Day'), Sept. 19, at Cathedral Park, under the St. John's Bridge.

It was funny after setting the record, Larsen recalls, because the folks in Hastings kept in touch with Portland organizers.

'They were polite about it, but they were gloating, British-style,' Larsen says. 'It's friendly and fun. They're enjoying it, too. … A sweet old lady called, and she didn't sound like a pirate at all. They were checking in with us every day.

'They were shocked themselves, because Hastings is a small place.'

Portland's festival attracts about 15,000 to 18,000 people during the weekend. Larsen figures if half the people show up with eye patches, head gear, garb and another accessory - fake parrot, mug, spyglass, compass, etc. - Portland has a chance to reclaim the record.

It's quite a process to be considered for the Guinness Book of World Records. Last year's Guinness attempt took about 2 1/2 hours to do. Pirates paraded in front of Guinness-approved officials, who counted the number of people dressed up like pirates. Then, everybody had to pose for a photo. Organizers had to compile a log book and a video of the proceedings and send them to Guinness officials located in England; then, it was six to eight weeks of anticipation.

'There have been so many people around the world trying to set the record,' Larsen says. '(Guinness) has been bombarded, especially since we did it.'

This year things will be streamlined with online registration, along with on-site registration. Pirates are counted during the parade and pose for the photo.

'It's not quite as difficult; Guinness has changed the rules a little bit,' Larsen says. For example, 'you don't have to have a sword anymore. Now you can have any kind of accessory. People don't have to be perfect, as we were last year; we thought the rules would be so strict, we didn't want to make any mistakes at all.'

The Guinness attempt will be emceed by Cap'n Slappy, who helped establish 'Talk Like a Pirate Day.'

It's the fifth anniversary of the Portland Pirate Festival, and it benefits the Oregon Maritime Museum, celebrating its 30th anniversary. Another fun event this year: the first Stumptown Beard and Moustache Competition on Saturday.

For more information, go to www.portlandpiratefestival.com or call 503-853-1497. Guinness records can be viewed at www.guinnessbook.com.