The maypole dance was the highlight of the May Queen celebration that predated Buccaneer Days. Contributed photo

Buccaneer Days has long, storied history

Buccaneer Days takes place May 11 to 14.

By Tim Collins

Buccaneer Days are soon upon us but if you think Esquimalt’s festival has always been a celebration of eye patche, skull and crossbones bedecked children with plastic swords, you would be wrong.

The festival, which only last year moved its dates back to early May as a result of booking problems with the midway entertainment company that had provided rides for long-standing mid-June event, actually had its roots as a Victoria May Day celebration. It was all about the May Queen, formally dressed children doing the May pole dance and a parade with nary a pirate in sight.

The Victoria May Day celebrations were discontinued in 1939 when patriotic fervor pushed frivolous celebrations to the side as the community joined the war effort.

Esquimalt continued with its own May Queen celebrations which evolved into something called Esquimalt Days until, in 1966, the community, in search of a catchier theme for the event and in recognition of the naval heritage of Esquimalt, introduced Buccaneer Days.

Soon after, the pirate theme was born.

Bob McKie, long-time board member for the event and current chairperson, recalled how the community came to take a great deal of pride in the roguish image embodied by the pirate theme.

“There was a time when a bunch of us, dressed in full pirate gear, would crash Oak Bay’s Tea Party and steal away with some trinket from their event,” recalled McKie with a chuckle.

“They would have to wait and come to Buccaneer Days to retrieve it. It was all in good fun. But I guess we haven’t done that for about 15 years…but you never know, maybe this year.”

Pirate raids aside, Buccaneer Days has managed to capture the community’s devotion to this unique community. The frilly dresses may have been replaced by eye patches, but the sense of fun hasn’t changed a bit.

Buccaneer Days run May 11 to 14 with a main focus on the Archie Browning Recreation Centre and grounds

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