Shiver Me Timbers: Tybee Island Pirate Fest will soon set sail!

A group of men dressed in pirate costumes are holding mugs.

Shiver Me Timbers: Tybee Island Pirate Fest will soon set sail!

Ahoy! Tybee’s most iconic celebration of seafarers is fast approaching. The 17th annual Pirate Fest will take over the island Oct. 5-7. Don your tricorns and buccaneer boots and let the Jolly Roger fly at this fun, free, family-friendly festival. 

A group of men dressed in pirate costumes are holding mugs.

The Pirate Fest first started in 2005 as a way to attract travelers to the island during the fall shoulder season when the island sees a dip in visitors after summer ends. A group of locals got together to brainstorm ideas for a signature event — and with the popularity of the Pirates of the Caribbean saga at the time, coupled with Tybee’s positioning as a barrier isle, which sailing marauders commonly used as a hideout — a pirate festival seemed to be the right choice. And right it was, as the event attracts thousands to Tybee every year. 

A woman wearing a pirate mask on a street.

“Tybee likes to party, and they like to get dressed up, so that’s how Pirate Fest was born,” said Charissa Murray, president of the Tybee Festival Association and Pirate Fest director. 

Every year, the Pirate Fest provides locals and tourists alike with a unique opportunity to escape the ordinary and enjoy a variety of vendors, performers, events, and all around good times. It all kicks off on Thursday, Oct. 5 at 6 p.m. with the annual Buccaneer Ball at The Crab Shack. It’s an invitation to enjoy good grub and grog in the company of fellow swashbucklers and sea wenches from near and far. The Buccaneer Ball is the only ticketed event of the weekend, and those tickets are going fast, so get yours on Eventbrite before they’re gone.

A crowd of people at a the buccaneer ball.

Following the ball is a full slate of festivities on Friday and Saturday. Festival goers can look forward to a Thieves Market with several vendors and Little Matey’s Cove, which includes themed bounce houses and face painting for our pint-sized pirates. Kiddos can also enjoy a riveting storytime with a pirate. There will also be aerial performances, stilt walkers, jugglers and a riding shark in addition to an exciting lineup of local and regional bands including Savannah’s JD Music Group, UniFya, Outlaw Gypsy and Southern Charm as well as Tybee’s very own The Alternators and The Aloha Joes. Nashville’s IMY2 will also take the stage playing  a rockin’ mix of covers with a unique twist as well as some original songs. 

A crowd of people watching a concert at night.

A highlight of the weekend is the parade, which is set for Saturday, Oct. 7 at 3 p.m. Watch in wonder as fantastic floats sail through Tybee’s streets topped with pirates clad in their fine frocks. It’s a celebration of the community that draws in folks from all over. 

Murray, who has been attending Pirate Fest since the start, says the camaraderie is the best part of the weekend for her.

“I’ve made very strong friendships with the people who come every year. We have the same groups that come, and they come from everywhere. From Washington state, California, they come from every state in the nation, and they stay,” she said. 

A group of people waving pirate flags on a boat.

She encourages everyone to attend and have fun at this year’s festival, which is put on by an all-volunteer nonprofit organization. As the Pirate Fest is free to attend, money is not the motive. It’s about community.

“We’re a community event and we have a lot of support from our local community, and we try to support the community back,” said Murray. “ It’s more about just supporting the island as a whole.”

Visit tybeepiratefest.com/ for more details and a full schedule of events. Come out and prepare to party like a pirate!

A group of people dressed in pirate costumes.

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