Walk a plank of fun in Westport

A day in Grays Harbor County with blue skies, 70-degree temperatures and wind that didn’t make it cold, created a seamless launch point for pirate fun.

People were dressed to the swashbuckling nines, and there was even someone who looked, and acted, like the world-famous pirate character “Capt. Jack Sparrow.” Cue the odd physical movement for which the character is known.

Mike Vassar and Christine Vassar, who were dressed as “Capt. Jack Sparrow,” and “Angelica,” — daughter of “Blackbeard” — were as polite as can be as they explained to The Daily World what kept them coming back for the last decade to the pirate festival in Westport.

“The people,” Christine Vassar said.

Mike Vassar, added how he loves interacting with the people. He then explained why he started dressing as the famous pirate with the red “P” tattoo — P for pirate — on his right forearm, and the red “X” on his right cheekbone.

“It was ages ago, when someone said I looked like the fellow,” Mike Vassar said.

Christine Vassar, as charming as her husband, is happy to be along for the ride with “Capt. Jack Sparrow.”

“I met him in a bar,” she said. “I married him. This is how my life is.”

The Vassars, who live in St. Helens, Oregon, met at the watering hole Hung Farlow in Longview. Given Sparrow’s love for the taste of a good Caribbean rum, it’s no wonder they met over rum drinks.

Despite attendance in the thousands throughout the first day of Rusty Scupper’s Pirate Daze, the Vassars would like to see more people.

“I feel like next year will be even bigger,” Mike Vassar said.

While pirates, like the Vassars, made for authentic, classic pirate fun, one man had a real macaw with him.

Ron Schmidt, dressed in pirate garb, was a hit with children and adults alike. The black-hatted pirate with a scarlett, blue, and yellow macaw hanging from his shoulder, and a real 3-foot metal sword sheathed on his belt, stopped for photographs, and insisted on people taking “selfies” with him.

Schmidt’s macaw, “Jazz” is 45 years old, brilliantly colored, and quite active.

“She’ll live to be 100,” Schmidt said. “I’ve had her for 25 years. I adopted her from another family.”

Schmidt, from Portland, was attending his second year at Rusty Scupper’s Pirate Daze. His first year was in 2021.

“I fell in love with it, and I expect to come here for many more years,” Schmidt said.

He explained why he expects to come back next year.

“I’m just a young kid at heart (who) likes to play grown-up pirate.”

Schmidt isn’t just a pirate during Westport’s yearly festival, which was celebrating its 22nd year — 2020 was canceled because of COVID-19. Schmidt also lives on a “floating home.”

“Every self-respecting pirate’s got to live on a ship,” said Schmidt with a smile.

In addition to pirates, who wandered along downtown Westport’s Westhaven Drive, there were children with skull face paint, and there was even a man with a skull mask and a squid that adorned his shoulder. His name? “Foul Weather.” His land name is Tim McNeal, and he hails from Bremerton.

McNeal has been coming to Rusty Scupper’s Pirate Daze, off and on, for the last couple years. McNeal’s main purpose during the festival is to “amuse” the children.

“I tell nautical jokes,” said McNeal with his stuffed squid named “Squirt,” who was hanging onto his left shoulder.

McNeal gave a couple examples of the jokes he tells. One is funnier with sound.

“Why did it take so many years for a pirate to learn the alphabet? McNeal asked. “He spent so many years at C.”

Another of McNeal’s jokes is better to read.

“Why didn’t the razor clam share his toys? McNeal asked. “Because he was shellfish.”

While there was much entertainment — from boisterous pirate characters, to music from Scott Jeffers, and music from the Celtic Rock band “Tempest,” nonalcoholic, and alcoholic drinks, and plenty of other swashbuckling fun, there was also some delicious food that drew quite a crowd.

Ronda Strode, owner of Bay City Sausage, provided two grills full of smoked turkey legs, a variety of sausage, including a hearty, and flavorful German Garlic sausage, plus cold offerings for those who wanted to take a wide array of meats home.

Strode, from Westport, estimated that her first year at Rusty Scupper’s Pirate Daze was 2001, one year after the festival started.

Strode spoke about her favorite part of the festival.

“The pirates,” she said. “(And) everybody coming out here.”

Strode, who also loves the parade, wished she had more time to enjoy the festival.

“I’m busy working so much, I barely get a chance to say ‘Hi’ to everybody,” she said.

Rose Jensen, coordinator for Rusty Scupper’s Pirate Daze, was happy as could be during the last hour of the festival when The Daily World asked her about her thoughts about day one of the festival.

One thing that stood out to Jensen was the stark contrast in weather, from June 2021, which saw temperatures hit 100 in the Pacific Northwest.

“Last year, I swear it was like Armageddon,” Jensen said.

She was proud of how the event started Friday, June 24. She said she, and her crew of volunteers, have tried to bring old and new music.

Jensen said the crowd, with an estimated attendance of about 5,000 or so on Friday, was smaller than projected for Saturday, June 25, and Sunday, June 26.

“It’s always bigger on Saturday,” she said. “We’re hoping with the price of gas and the heat in Seattle and Portland that they’ll be making the short trip here to Westport.”

Jensen got just what she wanted. Saturday and Sunday were sunny and the high temperatures were 74 and 84, according to The Weather Channel’s website.

Jensen’s favorite aspects from Friday were Jeffers’ musical performance and the rock-climbing wall.

“They’ve been doing really well,” she said. “They’re all marvelous.”

Jensen looked quite busy as she was dealing with vendors, fare attendees, and awaiting the close of the festival’s first day.

One highlight she pointed to was “Capt. Jack Sparrow,” and how he arrived after the U.S. Coast Guard’s “Colors” presentation.

“And then Capt. Jack Sparrow and his crew arrived here on that boat (HMB BLOODMOON,)” said Jensen about the wooden pirate ship complete with pirate flags and skeletons dressed as pirate crew members.

Jensen said she’s trying her “darndest,” to get new, interesting acts and vendors in order to “mix it up” every year at the festival. For now, she’s happy ushering in the 22nd year of the festival.

“I’m thrilled with how this event has gone,” she said.

Schmidt, one of thousands of smiling and laughing fare attendees, had one more thing to say about Rusty Scupper’s Pirate Daze and Westport.

“I’d like to compliment Westport, the community, and the businesses for letting grown-ups play (like) kids again,” Schmidt said.