Aye, there be pirates at Lorenzi Park this weekend, and what they’re doing there is quite the story to tell.
And as producers of Pirate Fest, Rich and Jan Strelak are just the ones to tell the story that, like most good stories, involves a curse.
Pirate Fest begins Friday for a three-day run at Lorenzi Park, 3333 W. Washington Ave. Offered will be games, crafts, parades, sword fights and all sorts of piratey, but still family friendly, activities.
But in a twist from the way such festivals usually work, guests are encouraged to dress up — as classical pirates, steampunk pirates or faeries — to march in a daily parade and, even, to interact with pirates.
The Strelaks’ entertainment resume includes designing and operating Halloween houses, including The Asylum and Hotel Fear, here. Rich Strelak says that it was while thinking of attractions that might be offered between Halloweens that Pirate Fest was born.
Pirates “are pretty cool,” he says. Consider Halloween, when pirate garb consistently ranks among each year’s top costumes, Strelak says.
But the Strelaks didn’t want to create a run-of-the-mill event, where people merely stop by to watch costumed characters perform.
Instead, they wanted to create an interactive experience. Still, Strelak says, “the first question was how to explain pirates in the middle of the desert.
“Some people are, like, ‘What does it matter?’ To me, it matters. So the first thing we did was, we created a whole legend to put reasons for pirates being in the desert.”
The impressively detailed back story can be found on the event’s website (www.PirateFestLV.com). But, long story short, the pirates were cursed and exiled to a place where they’d never taste or smell saltwater again.
However, Strelak says, “they might be able to break this curse if they get enough people together and do certain things.”
Enter Pirate Fest’s guests and the notion of involving them in the story.
“The pirates will try to interact with people, because they need their help,” Strelak says. For instance, a pirate might spot a child with red hair and say: “We need the hair of a redhead. We need you to come at the end of the day to the curse-breaking ceremony.”
In the meantime, guests can participate in a slate of activities, from rope-making to harpoon-throwing, that might also somehow aid the pirates in breaking the curse.
“We want them doing activities,” Strelak says. “So we’ve taken activities other fairs will charge for and have free, so they’re out there doing things.”
Other scheduled attractions include jugglers, musicians, pirate lessons, sea shanty singers and competitions. Then, each afternoon, costumed guests can participate in a parade.
Also scheduled for the event are informational booths staffed by about 40 community organizations, Strelak adds.
In an effort to encourage guests to arrive in costume, the event’s back story expands the pirate legend to include steam punk pirates and faeries , as well as pirates of just about any era or permutation.
Advice about dressing to fit the story line appears on the festival’s website. But, Strelak says, the goal is to focus less on historical accuracy than on following the event’s own fictitious legend.
From a practical standpoint, the comparatively lax costume guidelines will allow entire families to dress up at a reasonable cost.
“You can go to Savers or Goodwill and pick up flowery pants or a pantalooney-type thing and dig around the closet and dig out enough stuff to put on and be a pirate,” Strelak says.
“So it’s more open-ended. It’s pirate, it’s steampunk, it’s faeries, but you still have that uniform story line that ties it all together.”
Then, after Friday’s and Saturday’s events at Lorenzi Park, Pirate Fest moves to downtown Las Vegas for pirate fights, parades and carousing on Fremont Street, Strelak says.
Strelak says he and his wife approached Las Vegas City Councilman Ricki Barlow last year to propose Pirate Fest and found Barlow immediately supportive.
“I’m always open to new and creative programming in the community,” says Barlow, in whose ward Lorenzi Park lies. “I think this will be a great way of really bringing some different types of programming into the parks.”
It’ll also be an occasion for Las Vegans to reacquaint themselves with Lorenzi Park, which is in the home stretch of a multimillion-dollar renovation project.
Official rededication ceremonies are tentatively scheduled for July, Barlow says, but Pirate Fest can help to “reintroduce to the community all of the new amenities that Lorenzi Park has to offer, because it’s a centrally located park and a regional park right in the heart of the city.”
Strelak hopes it will become an annual event on the city’s parks calendar.
“Oh, yes,” he says with a laugh. “We’re putting in way too much work for this to be a one-year (event).”
Contact reporter John Przybys at jprzybys@review journal.com or 702-383-0280.