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Pirates plunder Williamsport

September 19, 2010|By DAVE McMILLION
  • Desiree Watson of Bedington, W.Va., swabs the deck during an obstacle course race at the Pirate's Plunder held Sunday in downtown Williamsport.
By Ric Dugan, Staff Photographer

WILLIAMSPORT -- Pirates? In Williamsport? Mayor James G. McCleaf II figures there was probably some connection, given the town's proximity to the Potomac River.

"I'm sure there were pirates on the river at one time, but that was a long time ago," McCleaf said.

The town was home to the scraggly characters Sunday as people dressed up like them in the town's first Pirate's Plunder event.

Town officials wanted to have an event to attract people downtown and see improvements that have been made in its business district, McCleaf said. The town has been working to make the town attractive to tourists, particularly users of the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal National Historical Park.

Town officials were trying to come up with an idea for a downtown event and while searching around on the Internet, they found International Talk Like a Pirate Day, McCleaf said.

The day was created in 1996 by two men who proclaimed Sept. 19 as the day when everyone in the world should talk like a pirate, according to a program for Sunday's event. The day has grown as a result of the romanticized view of the golden age of piracy and its supposed free-spirited approach to life, the brochure said.

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Things were certainly free-spirited in town Sunday as some adults took advantage of the event to dress up in pirate attire.

One of those people, Jesse Green, stood along Conococheague Street by a custom motorcycle he had just purchased for $15,000. The spotless chopper, with a skull on its back fender, is worth about $80,000, Green said.

Green said he talked to town officials about having permission to show the bike during the event and officials agreed.

Green said he is a pirate street performer in Key West, Fla., and Sunday, he stood by his bike wearing a large velvet hat, a conch shell necklace, long earrings and other pirate-like garb.

Bands played on a stage at the intersection of Conococheague and Salisbury streets, and for $5 apiece, people could sample food from about four eateries in town, among other attractions.

Williamsport resident Pat Kinsey liked the idea behind the event.

Kinsey talked about how lively the downtown used to be and how that energy disappeared as merchants became older and retired.

On Sunday, Kinsey was munching on an ice cream cone from Williamsport Creamery -- a new business in town -- and said she likes the effort town officials have made in revitalizing the town.

"They're making an effort," said Kinsey. "It seems like they are on the same page."

Kathy Gustafson of Halfway praised town officials for the event and providing children with an enjoyable event.

Gustafson said she did not know if the town's recent efforts are bringing more people into town from the C&O Canal, but she said such an event can only help the community.

McCleaf said it was hard to determine how many people attended the event, since people flowed all around Conococheague Street throughout the day.

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