Sunfest 2017: Hey, why isn’t Capt. Morgan there this year?

The Captain has left the building, er, the barge. Or is that a floating oasis?

Whatever you call those three rocking drinking spots off the docks that annually grace the Flagler Drive waterfront during SunFest, they’ll be down one pirate this year.

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That’s right — after 20 years as a sponsor of the festival, Captain Morgan, the living embodiment of pirate-themed rum-based fun and his fetching lady sidekicks, the Morganettes, have sailed away. They’ve pulled up the plank. They have taken their booty and gone home.

And I, for one, am going to miss them.

“We had a great run with them,” says SunFest’s Melissa Sullivan of the festival’s partnership with the party pirate and his company. Captain Morgan was not only SunFest’s rum sponsor, but the sponsor of what festival vets have always called the barges but which Sullivan says are now just bars.


Sullivan says the company has “moved into a new direction from a marketing standpoint” and left SunFest on good terms. This clears the deck for three new bar sponsors — Bacardi Rum, Skyy Vodka and Coors, which was already on board as the beer sponsor but now gets its own barge. I mean bar!

As a SunFest veteran — I have attended nearly every day of the festival for the last 15 years — I’m always excited for new stuff, and I’m told that change is good. But there was something special about the Captain, strolling the streets in the South Florida heat in his fly red pirate suit, jaunty feathered hat and shiny black boots.

He always walked the plank between goofy and cool. I liked that.

Sometimes, you’d see him and the Morganettes — I used to think they were called wenches, but apparently they prefer to be called “assistants” — leading a parade of rummy happiness down Clematis Street into SunFest, conquering their way into the hearts of fans not by pillaging but posing for selfies, giving out free T-shirts and, as the Captain told me in 2015, “giant-sized pictures of my head. Yes, I’m that narcissistic.”

I have a more personal reason for loving the Captain — he and the Morganettes figure prominently in the love story of one of my closest friends. She invited my sister and I to have drinks and guacamole at Clematis Street’s Rocco’s Tacos with a guy she’d just met, an outing which she swore was not a date. By the time the pirate and his band of merry T-shirt throwing babes made their way down the street toward SunFest and stopped to take a photo with us, it was clear that this was, indeed, a date, so my sister and I quickly made our apologies and scurried off.

But my friend and the guy, now her husband of almost eight years, have a picture of their first date that includes a rum-slinging pirate. And that makes a better story, right?

I got a personal audience with the Captain and his pals, but no parrot — “I always say that he doesn’t like working as hard as we do” — in the lobby bar of Hyatt Place, right around the corner from the festival. And yeah, there are some killjoys reading this who can’t wait to remind me that I was actually speaking to an actor playing a fictional character. And to those people, I say lighten up. Maybe have a drink. I know a guy who can hook you up with some good spiced rum.

Whoever the dude in the hat was, he was prepared to answer all manner of silly rum and pirate-based questions, being sure to plug the brand, but in a fun way. He described the gig as being “here to go out and play with our adult consumers.”

“I’m an adult consumer!” a guy sitting nearby, who’d been listening the whole time, volunteered. The good captain looked him up and down.

“Well, you’re over 21,” he tossed out. “The ‘adult’ part is questionable.”

Dude was committed.

Sullivan says there’s a lot more fun planned for the May 3-7 festival, including new signature cocktails and some new trendy possibilities — Bacardi is bringing its own tequila brand, Cazadores, which will be fun around Cinco de Mayo.

“We don’t know what each brand will bring, but we’re all super-excited and ready to embrace it,” Sullivan says.

I’ll be there on the bar-thingees, having a Moscow Mule or whatever, and I’m sure it’ll be groovy. But at some moment, I’ll look out into the distance, and for a second, if I squint real hard, I’ll almost make out a pirate ship on the horizon, somewhere past the Flagler Bridge.

And I’ll stick my knee out, my hand on my hip, and whisper “O Captain, my Captain.”

Because just like the man himself, I’m not afraid to be goofy in the name of a little fun.

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