While this year’s Great Falls Balloon Festival theme is “Swashbuckling in the Sky,” there will be pirate antics on the ground as well.

One of the festival’s featured special-shape balloons will be Pegleg Pete, a colorful parrot-pirate combination whose motto is “Arrrr you ready for a good time?”

On the ground, the festival organizers promise a swashbuckling experience with Pirates of the Dark Rose, a professional entertainment company based in Rockland. The company provides a group of “pirates” for hire complete with authentic costuming and period-accurate swashbuckling props.

In addition to playing the pirate characters, the entertainment offers the complete pirate experience with cannons, blades, sword fighting and tomfoolery. The troupe is expected to circulate throughout the balloon festival grounds spreading good cheer and pirate fun.

According to “Miss Felicity” Adams, crew quartermaster for the Pirates of the Dark Rose (aka Sandi Bilbo), “This is our 10th year. We pillage and plunder the entire east coast from Eastport, Maine to Key West, Florida. We do things from large festivals to birthday parties and fundraisers.” The troupe is under the direction of Captain Tom Crudbeard (aka Tomm Tomlinson) of Rockland.

At the Balloon Festival, Miss Felicity said to expect Crudbeard’s Cannon Lessons, the Treasure Island Puppet Show, Pirate Small Arms, The Pirate Oracle and other “piratical” adventures.

“Our interactive Pirate Small Arms consist of weapons dating from 1515 to early 1800s. This has been a great crowd pleaser,” said Miss Felicity, and includes a demonstration of cleaning the arms and discussion time after the presentation.

Other adventures might well include spontaneous sword play similar to the old Errol Flynn movies. According to the troupe’s website, “the fights will make ya gasp, with the flash of the swinging blades and ring of steel. Experienced with cutlass and rapier, we can fight in parades and on docks, as well as pirate duels and swordplay demonstrations.”

While the troupe creates realistic battles, the demonstrations are with non-sharp blades, especially designed for the purpose. A section of their website describes their commitment to safety by noting, “We train with professional fight instructors from film and stage and use the Society of American Fight Directors (SAFD) safety standards for our fights.”

As for cannon firings and demonstrations, it just so happens that one of the troupe members is in the business of manufacturing high-quality cannons and carriages.

While it won’t be making an appearance in Lewiston-Auburn, The Pirates of the Dark Rose even have a 55-foot boat for buccaneering on the high seas. With a cannon on the upper deck and carronades on the lower, the Must Roos flies a square topsail, and works well for pirate attacks on harbor festivals.

Miss Felicity notes that anyone can participate in the buccaneer’s boot camp with the opportunity to try their hand at being a pirate. “But it usually winds up being the young scalawags ages 6-12,” said Miss Felicity.

And when asked if Oreo, the captain’s pet raven, will be on hand in L/A, Miss Felicity reluctantly said, “Do we have to bring that rotten ‘baaaad’ bird? I guess so, if you really want us to.”


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