The Krewe of Bowlegs and the Greater Fort Walton Beach Chamber of Commerce have officially announced that the 65th Annual Billy Bowlegs Pirate Festival and Torchlight Parade will be returning this spring.
The event is transitioning from the traditional first weekend in June to Friday, April 30th and Saturday, May 1st, with the celebratory Torchlight Parade on Monday, May 3, 2021.
The original Bowlegs festival was held Labor Day weekend but quickly moved to the first weekend in June to promote summer tourism. June is now one of the busiest months of the year for tourism which played a part in the the decision to move to a weekend that would “benefit both our tourists, by offering more budget friendly pricing, and our hotel partners, by filling the region during an off-peak time”, according to a press release.
“This cost-effective decision will in turn entice more out of town visitors to come for a weekend getaway—and stay 4 nights to enjoy the parade Monday evening,” wrote the FWB Chamber in an announcement. “The new date will also offer more comfortable temperatures for all of the outdoor festival activities.”
In addition to the date change, and COVID-19 Safety Protocols being put in place, changes to this year’s event includes a focus on the vibrancy of Downtown Fort Walton Beach.
“Fort Walton Beach native Buddy Carter, who is Capt. Billy Bowlegs LXV, remembers Bowlegs’ festivals from the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s, when the pirates would land at a Santa Rosa Sound, dock just west of Beal Parkway and parade east on U.S. 98 toward Brooks Bridge. Buddy fondly remembers that and wanted to bring it back which inspired the changes,” said Ted Corcoran, Greater Fort Walton Beach Chamber of Commerce, President/CEO.
“When the festival is held at the landing, we traditionally have a variety of out of town vendors who are accustomed to serving festival crowds,” Corcoran added. “By having activities take place throughout downtown, our attendees are able to utilize our existing food, beverage and retail establishments—keeping it local—which was the purpose of the festival when it started 65 years ago!”
A detailed event schedule to be released soon.
Sponsorships are available. Contact Rachelle Graves at the Greater Fort Walton Beach Chamber of Commerce for additional information.