Excitement grows for Bath Fest’s return

Published 5:48 pm Thursday, August 19, 2021

By Philip Sayblack 

For The Washington Daily News

The Town of Bath’s annual Bath Fest is coming back.

More than a year after the COVID-19 pandemic caused its cancellation, the festival will return to the streets of North Carolina’s oldest town. The event, which usually takes place in mid-May, is scheduled to take place from 10 a.m. – 3 p.m. Sept. 18 in the Town of Bath.

“The festival is especially important for the Town of Bath and for Beaufort County especially this year because even though things are starting to get back to normal, people still want that road less traveled versus going to an event at a place that might be more crowded,” said Phoebe Wahab, one of the festival’s organizers,  “People want that small town experience, and Bath has that quaintness.

“I think Bath Fest allows the Town of Bath to show its best face,” she added. “It is one of the ways that Bath can show the beauty of its waterfront.”

Town Administrator Bubs Carson said officials have not formally decided on what safety measures will be taken to curb the spread of COVID-19 at the festival.

“The town council will meet again before the festival,” Carson said. “The council will make a final decision at that time.”

Now in its 15th year, Bath Fest will feature a variety of entertainment options and vendors including performances by the Bath Elementary School Choral Groups, the Pitt Community College Symphony Orchestra and demonstrations by members of the historical re-enactment organization, Blackbeard’s Crew. The group’s demonstrations are for activities such as sword fights, cannon firings, and food preparation.

Beaufort County resident Nannette Garrett said she and her family attended Bath Fest many years ago and that the pirates’ demonstrations were among her family’s favorite part of the festival.

“We used to go when my boys were younger,” said Garrett. “They really enjoyed the pirates when they were doing their sword fighting and my boys dressed up like pirates. It was fun for the whole family. It was a nice place to take your family to learn some history about pirates and Blackbeard, and the area they [the kids] grew up in. I would most definitely recommend anyone attend Bath Fest.”

Living History Interpreter Randy Gnatowsky, who is a member of Blackbeard’s Crew, Inc. talked about the value of bringing pirate history to life.

“It’s one thing when people get history from a book,” he said. “It’s another thing altogether when people can see history in real life and can touch the history. That is the biggest part of what we really do, is bring the history to life.”

“We’re all volunteers in Blackbeard’s Crew, Inc.,” he added. “None of us draws a salary from this. Everything that we generate in terms of revenues goes into the organization. Our paychecks are the smiles and laughter from the people.”

The demonstrations by the members of Blackbeard’s Crew are just part of the enjoyment offered by Bath Fest. Historic interpreters with the NC Department of Cultural Resources will offer insight into the Town of Bath’s rich history.

“We [historic interpreters] work in the town’s work in the town’s exhibit center and offer tours,”  said historic interpreter A.J. Drake. “Much of the town’s history is tied to the county’s waterways. The town became the state’s first port around 1705 or 1706. The reason that the date changes is that the calendar changed between Julian and Gregorian around that time, so it isn’t precise.

“The festival is about celebrating the town and its history,” he added. “I enjoy seeing all of the vendors coming in. It is cool to see what is for sale. There is always a lot of interesting stuff.”

Bath Fest is free and open to the public. More information on Bath Fest is available at https://facebook.com/groups/237684104543.