NEW FRANKLIN: Fictional pirate and professional scallywag Capt. Jack Sparrow knew that any voyage on the high seas goes smoother with an experienced crew.
Likewise, organizers of the annual Portage Lakes Pirate Days relied on experience when they ruthlessly slashed the event from its two-week maiden voyage in 2011 to a three-day event last year. With more pirates than ever expected to set their sights and compasses on the area this weekend, organizers beefed up more popular activities and dropped some that weren’t as well attended.
Participation is free for all events.
Pirate Days will kick off at 5:30 tonight with a silent auction and reverse raffle at Prime 93 on Manchester Road and will continue through Sunday at Portage Lakes State Park and other area locations.
“The first year, we had five groups participating. The event has grown so large we have 18 community groups involved now, and we expect more people than ever to attend the event this year,” Pirate Days organizer Larry Hunter said.
One of the more popular events of the weekend, PNC Bank’s Kid’s Treasure Hunt, sponsored by the Portage Lakes Kiwanis Club for children under 12, grew from a handful of participants in 2011 to 137 children last year.
Organizers will cap the number of children it can accommodate at 300 for the event, 1 to 3 p.m. Saturday, that sets sail from the swimming beach at Portage Lakes State Park.
Children, outfitted in a life jacket exchange sponsored by Akron Children’s Hospital, will set sail on four pontoon boats for Treasure Island at the entrance to Rex Lake. Little treasure hunters, who will be given maps to plunder treasure where “X” marks the spot, should beware of marauding pirates who will protect their bounty with water balloons and Super Soaker water guns.
An anonymous group of women calling themselves the “Secret Sisters” are calling all pirates to come in costume for a best-dressed contest. The women, who normally raise money for cancer victims through softball games, are sponsoring the event.
Children can walk the plank, but not before they create their own pirate hats to go in style.
Adults and children are invited to participate in a “chain shot” disc golf tournament at the state park course from 9:30 a.m. to noon Saturday. The tournament, sponsored by Friess Welding, is organized by the Portage Lakes Disc Golf Association.
The name of the event is a play on words that not only refers to a Frisbee that hits chains at each hole on the course before it drops into a basket, but also to the chain shot that pirates used to connect two cannonballs.
“When fired at an enemy ship, [it] would inflict much damage,” said Steve Godar, founder of the Portage Lakes Disc Golf Course at the state park.
There will be two competitions during the tournament, one for seasoned golfers with cash prizes and another for amateur golfers with noncash prizes. There is no fee to participate in the tournament. Golfers should arrive by 9:30 a.m. to register and follow the signs to the course near the High Point Parking area, Godar said.
For the past several weeks, the Portage Lakes Kiwanis has been selling discounted “pieces of eight” pirate coins that can be redeemed for discounts, good or services at participating stores, Hunter said.
“This whole thing is just getting bigger every year,” he said.
Kathy Antoniotti can be reached at 330-996-3565 or email@example.com.