Bowlegs Festival

Bowlegs (Billy) Festival

First full week in June
The oldest and one of the biggest festivals in northwest Florida is held in Fort Walton Beach to commemorate the pirate William Augustus Bowles, also known as Capt. Billy Bowlegs. Bowles arrived in what's now known as the Florida panhandle in 1778 when the Spanish, English, and Americans were maneuvering for control of the Gulf shores. He put together a force of Indians and "White Banditti," created his own throne, and formed the State of Muskogee. To support it, he ran raids on the Gulf of Mexico and on the mainland. He was finally seized and imprisoned in Morro Castle in Cuba, where he starved himself to death in 1803.
This is not a particularly joyous saga, but the light-hearted affair of the Billy Bowlegs Festival goes on for a week. The festival began in 1954 and today attracts about 40,000 spectators. Activities begin with fireworks on Friday night. The following day, the pirate captain and his red-kerchiefed "krewe" members storm the city from the pirate ship Blackhawk . As events move on there are musical concerts, a treasure hunt, arts and crafts, numerous food vendors, and sports events that include a midnight run. More than 100 floats take part in a torchlight parade, and parade participants rain gold doubloons and assorted trinkets on the clamoring crowds.
CONTACTS:
Greater Fort Walton Beach Chamber of Commerce
34 S.E. Miracle Strip Pkwy.
P.O. Box 640
Fort Walton Beach, FL 32549
850-244-8191; fax: 850-244-1935
www.fwbchamber.org
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