Will Billy Bowlegs Gain A Foothold Along Our Sands?


68th Annual Billy Bowlegs Festival | May 16-20Billy Bowlegs5

By Lori Leath Smith

Ahoy, maties! Avast, ye! It’s time to open your treasure chest, get your eyepatch on, take out your sword and get your pirate gear ready for 2024’s 68th Annual Billy Bowlegs Pirate Festival—May 16-20. Any landlubber knows Pirate Captain Billy Bowlegs has been setting his sights on our sandy white shores since the 1950s!

Billy Bowlegs CoupleThis year’s new “Captain Billy,” Bill Kilpatrick, takes the helm as Captain Billy Bowlegs LXVIII and is joined by the 68th Queen of Bowlegs Sharen Burt, First Mate and Mistress Brad and Krista Bowman along with their lackeys Christina Kilpatrick and John Burt and the Captain’s Honor Guard krewe.

The 2024 festival kicks off with a Pre-Invasion on Thursday evening, May 16th, around 4:30 p.m., just off Main St. downtown, where Captain Billy Bowlegs and his Krewe will arrive aboard their pirate ship parade float, the Blackhawk, to greet children, take photos and hand out treasure.

The Skirmish will be held on Friday evening, May 17th, where Captain Billy and his Krewe of Bowlegs will arrive by water at the Fort Walton Beach Landing to scout the city prior to their invasion on Saturday. The mayor of Fort Walton Beach and his forces are prepared and have threatened to arrest Captain Billy if he tries to land, resulting in a skirmish. The city of Fort Walton Beach will also host its Concert in the Park (6 p.m.), Arts & Crafts Fest (3 p.m.) and a Fireworks show (8 p.m.) over Santa Rosa sound.

Billy Bowlegs On BoatOn Saturday afternoon, May 18th, Captain Billy will return with the entire Krewe of Bowlegs and his allies from visiting Krewes across the country, after his defeat the night prior. The mayor will try everything to stop him from landing. Will he be a match for the overwhelming presence of Captain Billy’s pirates? Will the Captain prevail in taking over our city? The pirates and wenches will be full of merriment and mischief as they hand out treasures (3:30- 4 p.m.). Festivities at the Landing throughout the day include live music (noon-6 p.m.) , an arts and crafts festival (10 a.m.), along with food, beverages and other vendor booths.

Finally, on Monday night, May 20th, the Torchlight Parade will start at 7 p.m. on Eglin Pkwy. from First Street to Hughes Avenue to conclude the festival. The parade will be anchored by Captain Billy, the entire Krewe of Bowlegs and more than 100 floats and participants
marching down the street to celebrate Captain Billy Bowlegs’ 68th annual capture of Fort Walton Beach. And, they’ll be sharing their loot with those cheering them on!

Any local who has been around long enough looks forward to the famed treasure hunt. There are fewer than 100, limited-edition, two-inch treasure coins, each having an individually engraved serial number. Some coins are being hidden with published clues, some are being given away on the radio and on social media, and some by Captain Billy personally at public appearances. The winning coin will be chosen by a live drawing on May 20th at the Fort Walton Landing for a Grand Prize.

In between the Skirmish and Torchlight Parade, there’s all sorts of grub and grog, from ice cream to seafood. There will be live music and entertainment, fireworks a plenty and vendors showcasing lots of pirate booty and the like. For scallywags young and old, there’s arts and crafts booths, food, refreshments and bouncy houses. Our high seas are filled with hundreds of boats lining the mile-long sandbar off Fort Walton Beach Landing, where a melting pot of people will make their way to pillage, plunder and drink rum.

Drawing both locals and visitors, the festival is produced in partnership with the William Augustus Bowles Foundation, the Krewe of Bowlegs, the City of Fort Walton Beach, the Fort Walton Beach Chamber of Commerce and local businesses and community organizations.
FWB Life implores you to boldly stand guard to defend our piece of paradise at this year’s festival. Want to play a part? For more information, visit billybowlegsfestival.com. Captain Billy 68 is looking for a BIG 2024 turnout! So, join him and his Krewe for a swashbuckling good time as they, again, try to take over the city of Fort Walton Beach!