FROSTBURG — Little pirates invaded City Place and the surrounding downtown area on Wednesday, searching for treasures, books, ice cream and arts and crafts. The Main Street area of Frostburg arose with the sun a pirate cove, if only for half a day.
The Frostburg State University Children’s Literature Centre collaborated with FrostburgFirst and the city in continuation of its annual Pirates Ahoy! event — a day of pirate-themed and adjacent activities. Pirates Ahoy! started in 2006.
Children and their parents lined up early in front of City Place, where the children picked their fierce pirate names and received goodie bags, to sign up for the day’s action.
Just inside City Place, parents and guardians had the opportunity to have their children pose for various pirate-themed pictures before entering the main room where all the arts and crafts happened.
One group of children — Errice and Brooklynn Weeks, 6, and Evan Padovini, 7 — was bursting at the seams with excitement about the day’s opportunities.
Errice and Evan both said that the event they were most excited for was the treasure hunt, and Errice said he thought the prize would be a very good surprise. Brooklyn was most excited about the balloon swab.
“There’s not much to do in our area, so the kids look forward to this every year. I’ve been bringing them since they were 2,” said Pam Hare, the kids’ chaperone. “It gives them an opportunity to meet friends that they go to school with over the summer break, to see how the pirates actually lived on ships. They get to swab the deck, search for gold, to do the treasure hunt.”
Other children worked hard at their pirate crafts, whether it be gluing a beard on a pirate or walking the makeshift plank. Hunter Corbett pasted strips of black paper on his pirate’s jaw and said his name was Captain Blackbeard.
In the Palace Theatre down the street, illustrator and author Julie Fortenberry, whose abstract paintings were exhibited at the Whitney Museum and who illustrated Eve Bunting’s “Pirate Boy,” gave a presentation to the gathered buccaneers. Her next children’s book “Pearl Goes to Preschool” is slated for a 2020 release date.
“When I was first an abstract painter, I would be covered in paint, like head to toe oil paint. When I had kids, it made it almost impossible to take care of kids and be covered in paint,” Fortenberry said. “We got our first family computer, I started playing around on the computer and making stories for my kids. Recently, with the book I wrote, ‘Lily’s Cat Mask,’ I saw a couple of YouTubes of kids reading the book and I thought, ‘That’s great, that’s why I do it.’ This one little girl read everything with so much feeling, it was moving.”
Elsewhere, seafarers searched for treasure on the Mystery Pirate Treasure Hunt trail that included 22 different stops, some where participating local businesses offered discounts on food and drinks to the participants. Pirates brave enough to complete the hunt found themselves in possession of a voucher for a free small cone of ice cream from Frostburg Freeze.
“It helps with the economic opportunities for businesses in town,” said Emily Milleson, a professor at Frostburg State University who works in the Children’s Literature Centre.
In the City Place parking lot, a new event, the STEM Gauntlet, was held, where young pirates were able to explore the sciences in a hands-on manner, building aluminum boats to float despite piled on coinage and coloring in maps with coded marker to make an Ozobot move to find treasure.
The bot identified color patterns and moved with appropriate action upon scanning the code, in an effort to teach kids the basics of coding. The STEM Gauntlet was helped out by volunteers in purple shirts from North 40 Robotics.
“It teaches basic directions and basic coding,” said Jennifer Rankin, a professor of Math and Technology at Frostburg State University.
Even the Frostburg City Police decided it best not to mess with their fearsome swashbuckling, treasure hungry foes, and instead decided to invite them to stave off scurvy with a glass of lemonade at the police department.
Inside, Frostburg Chief of Police Nicholas Costello wore a pirate hat as he offered tours of the department.
“One of the most important parts of successful policing is having a close and positive relationship with the community,” Costello said. “One way that is developed is by participation in community events and interacting with people outside of a call for service or enforcement-type activity.
“By participating in these sorts of special events, we support the many wonderful annual activities in Frostburg, and people get to know our police officers,” he said. “Meanwhile we get to meet people and help everyone have a good time. It’s one important way we try to have a positive impact on the community and that we show that we are truly a part of the community we serve.”