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PirateFest perseveres through rainy Saturday

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Tone Loc performs on stage during PirateFest on Saturday.

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By Karen Eckert
The Daily Reflector

Sunday, April 14, 2019

Real pirates can’t be afraid of a little water, and festival-goers proved they aren’t either when they showed up by the tens of thousands for the 13th Annual PirateFest in downtown Greenville on Saturday.

The festival, sponsored by Uptown Greenville and the Pitt County Arts Council got off to a rainy start, but the rain tapered off around noon, giving way to a breezy afternoon and evening with comfortable temperatures.

“It makes it tough,” Uptown Greenville Director Bianca Shoneman said of the weather. “It adds an additional level of planning ... and it’s the one thing we can’t control.” 

About 125 vendors in total were scheduled to participate in the event that started Friday night and stretched from Five Points Plaza to the Greenville Town Common. They represented nonprofit organizations, food vendors and art vendors, Shoneman said.

“We probably saw our biggest drop off (with) the nonprofit (vendors) that were local because it was easy for them to say ‘yes’ or ‘no’ at the last minute,” she said.

Fallon “Justine” Speaker, creator of “By Justine” handmade natural products, is one of the many vendors who did say yes.

According to Speaker, who is originally from Ayden and now lives in New York City, the rainy weather didn’t seem to dampen the spirits of either festival-goers or vendors and she thought the weather had brought out the best in people. 

“You have to be sort of like a happy-go-lucky type of person to come out here in the rain. It was raining first thing this morning. Most of the vendors were out here at 7:30, 8 o’clock to set up and it was pouring down raining ... there were some showers, but it didn’t really affect business at all and it didn’t affect me from being able to interact with people,” said Speaker.

Speaker’s booth and products were not affected and only her chair got wet, she said. And 10 or or so festival-goers took refuge under her tent. “I’m having a good time,” said Speaker.

While Saturday may have started with rain, that was not the case on Friday night, said Shoneman.

She estimated that 8,000-8,500 visitors attended the free Friday night concert to hear country singer Jimmie Allen, the 2019 Academy of Country Music New Male Artist of the Year nominee.

“Jimmie did a fantastic show (and) it was the first time we ever had a light show at the Town Common at night,” said Shoneman.

“Friday grew significantly this year,” said Shoneman. “We had a really good night.”

There were other ways that the festival grew this year, said Shoneman.

The festival was expanded by three blocks and it booked a national touring act with 80s-90s rappers Tone Loc and Biz Markie, said Shoneman.

While listening to North Carolina band Signal Fire, a reggae-rock band, who opened for the headliners, Pitt County resident Terry Freeman said he was “surprised that (PirateFest) would bring somebody like (Tone Loc and Biz Markie)” who were popular when he was growing up.

“It’s been awhile since they had somebody like that,” he said. “They were bangin’ in the eighties. I had a great time with them.”

For more information about Uptown Greenville visit https://uptowngreenville.com/. For more information about the Arts Council, visit https://www.pittcountyarts.org/.

Karen Eckert can be reached at keckert@reflector.com and 252-329-9565.

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