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Cute puppies, buccaneer swagger mark Pirates in the Plaza

Costumed marauders storm Washougal for annual festival

By , Columbian Breaking News Reporter
Published:
11 Photos
Meshelle Sharples, left, and Raynel Hunt carry Romeo and Raja to collect their parade prize Saturday during Pirates in the Plaza in Washougal.
Meshelle Sharples, left, and Raynel Hunt carry Romeo and Raja to collect their parade prize Saturday during Pirates in the Plaza in Washougal. (Greg Wahl-Stephens for The Columbian) Photo Gallery

WASHOUGAL — Pirates gathered Saturday afternoon in downtown Washougal, but they weren’t there to plunder the town. Rather, families and their pets came out to attend Pirates in the Plaza.

This year’s event marks the third time pirates have stormed the Clark County community. The event coincides with Talk Like a Pirate Day on Sept. 19, so there was a lot of piracy patois and costumes.

It took a couple of years to get the event up and running. Its first year was simply a pirate-themed concert, said organizer Rene’ Carroll. Since its start, it’s grown in size and popularity, she said.

“It’s all family during the day, and then at night it gets more pirate-like with the grog garden,” she said. “It draws people from across the region.”

She said the event’s popularity partly stems from its dog-friendly atmosphere, which was apparent as there were plenty of canine corsairs waddling around and smiling from floppy ear to floppy ear. Some of the dogs were dressed as pirates and took part in a costume contest.

But the day started with the Vancouver Walking Club hosting a costumed treasure hunt. A crew of cutthroats departed the Pendleton store parking lot in early morning, making their way through the heart of Washougal, down to the Port of Camas-Washougal and then back again. There was also a self-guided option for the walk for the less sociable scalawags.

Despite their appearances, those in attendance were a jubilant and polite band of buccaneers.

Kelly Farrah of Salem, Ore., sauntered through the plaza wearing full pirate gear, which included a bright red coat made by a friend who works for Opera Theater Oregon. When costumed, he goes by Longshot Murry, a name given to him by “other pirates,” he said.

Farrah, or Longshot Murray, is a member of The Order of the Leviathan, a private, membership-only collective of pirates. He also worked on several of the Pirates of the Caribbean movies as a prop master, making flags and loading guns.

“Oddly enough, there’s a demand for it,” he said, referring to the advisory work he did on the films.

Farrah said he attends pirate festivals around the area. He’s unsure when or how the hobby came about, but he’s long had a fascination with pirates and Vikings, he said.

“It’s fun to talk to other pirates. And the kids love it, although they can be scared some of the time,” Farrah said.

Mid-afternoon, the pet parade and costumed pet contest garnered the attention of many passers-by. It appeared no one was able to resist pups with eye patches.

The winners included honors for the best pirate-themed costume, the cutest costume and most original or unique costume.

Two 7-month-old Pomeranian puppies, Romeo and Raja, took home the prize for cutest costume. Stuffed-animal parrots strapped to them — and pirate jackets — stole the hearts of the judges.

Washougal residents Meshelle Sharples and Rayn Hunt said they weren’t expecting to take home the prize. Sharples and Hunt have attended Pirates in the Plaza every year since its inception. They said they like to support events there as local business owners; they also like playing dress-up.

“We just love it. Halloween is our favorite. I’m surprised we didn’t have the urge to dress up ourselves,” Sharples said, looking down at her Pomeranians.

“The fascination is that Pacific Northwest attitude, I think,” Hunt said. “You know, the whole keep-it-weird thing.”

The West Columbia River Gorge Humane Society put together the dog contest, and set up a wading pool with plastic balls and treats. The nonprofit is the main beneficiary of the event’s donations.

Micki Simeone, who sits on the humane society’s board of directors, said the money will go toward medical expenses for rescued animals. It’s the nonprofit’s largest expense by far, Simeone said.

The humane society helps about 500 dogs and cats every year, she said.

“We wanted to be involved,” Simeone said. “People can come out with their dogs, and we can share our message. The costume contest is just a plus.”

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