Pirate ship float from the first Buccaneer Day parade in 1966 motors along Esquimalt Road near Memorial Park. Courtesy Township of Esquimalt Archives

BUCCANEER DAYS: Festival history dates back to May Day celebrations

Bill Allen’s suggestion saw Esquimalt event transformed to Buccaneer Days in 1966

The evolution of Buccaneer Days to its current status began nearly 80 years ago in 1939, when May Day celebrations began in Esquimalt.

In 1949 the community decided to host a new festival called ‘Esquimalt Day.’ It wasn’t until 17 years later in 1966 that Bill Allen suggested a ‘new theme’ was necessary to put some life back into the celebrations. He suggested a maritime theme with the title Buccaneer Day, an idea that caught on. Fifty-two years later, Esquimalt residents will come together on the weekend of May 11 to 13 to continue the celebration.

From the beginning of Buccaneer Day, attendees were encouraged to put on their best buccaneer outfits and from babes to seniors, tabbies and stripes was the dress of the day. The skull and crossbones flew from the flag poles and ‘arrrr matey’ was the standard greeting.

Nothing, however, has quite topped the first celebration when a marauding band of Buccaneers kidnapped Mr. and Mrs. Tweedie from the Oak Bay Tea Party parade. They were secretly held in the old Halfway House Pub whilst negotiations for their release took place. After the ransom of many crumpets was paid, the Tweedies rode proudly at the head of the first Buccaneer Day Parade, 18 June 1966.

Wakey Wakey, an old naval tradition began at 7 a.m. (an earlier time was tried, much to the chagrin of residents]. Everyone was encouraged to start the day at the arena, where the Esquimalt Lion’s introduced their famous pancake breakfast. This time-honoured tradition continues this weekend, so don your best buccaneer outfit and come join Esquimalt for an absolutely fun filled Buccaneer Days weekend.

– Submitted by Sherri Robinson, Esquimalt archivist

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