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'Pirates' a popular draw at the fair

Mike Dunham
Produce proves popular at the Alaska State Fair Thursday September 1, 2011 in Palmer.
ERIK HILL / Anchorage Daily News
Paula Ahrens, center, and Kathleeen Himmelright prepare chili and salsa for Chili Cookoff judging at the Alaska State Fair on Saturday, August 27, 2011. The pair call their booth the Pink Peppers in honor of their mothers, Judy Burke and Pat Gordon, both of whom died of breast cancer.
Marc Lester / Anchorage Daily News
Produce proves popular at the Alaska State Fair Thursday September 1, 2011 in Palmer.
ERIK HILL / Anchorage Daily News
The Alaska State Fair in Palmer, AK on Thursday, August 25, 2011.
BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News
Termination dust gathers on Pioneer Peak and fairgoers ride a ferris wheel on Monday. The Alaska State Fair was well attended on its final day, Labor Day, September 5, 2011.
Marc Lester / Anchorage Daily News
Produce proves popular at the Alaska State Fair Thursday September 1, 2011 in Palmer.
ERIK HILL / Anchorage Daily News
Produce proves popular at the Alaska State Fair Thursday September 1, 2011 in Palmer.
ERIK HILL / Anchorage Daily News
Ted Shred performs in his pirate character. The Pirates for Hire entertainment troupe performs on the grandstand lawn at the Alaska State Fair on Saturday, August 27, 2011.
Marc Lester / Anchorage Daily News
The Alaska State Fair in Palmer, AK on Thursday, August 25, 2011.
BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News
Suzanne Hermon encourages the gerbil at the Elks Rat Race game at the Alaska State Fair. The Alaska State Fair was well attended on its final day, Labor Day, September 5, 2011.
Marc Lester / Anchorage Daily News
Riley Layton, 10, of Wasilla grabs an early lead and hangs on for the win in a match race at the Kenai Peninsula Racing Pigs show at the Alaska State Fair Thursday September 1, 2011 in Palmer.
ERIK HILL / Anchorage Daily News
Dale Marshall prepares a long gourd for entry at the Alaska State Fair Wednesday morning August 31, 2011 at his home in Sand Lake.
ERIK HILL / Anchorage Daily News
Jenny Wren, right, tries to settle her market lamb for judging at the Alaska State Fair on Saturday, August 27, 2011.
Marc Lester / Anchorage Daily News
The Alaska State Fair in Palmer, AK on Thursday, August 25, 2011.
BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News
Doug Renfro with the beard he said took him one year and four days to grow. Renfro was the overall winner of the 2011 Alaska State Fair Great Alaska Beard Contest.
MIKE DUNHAM / Anchorage Daily News
Youngsters are sent skyward on the 1001 Nachts ride at the Alaska State Fair Thursday September 1, 2011 in Palmer.
ERIK HILL / Anchorage Daily News
The Alaska State Fair in Palmer, AK on Thursday, August 25, 2011.
BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News
The Alaska State Fair in Palmer, AK on Thursday, August 25, 2011.
BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News
The Alaska State Fair in Palmer, AK on Thursday, August 25, 2011.
BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News
Steve Hubacek delivers his 1st prize winning cabbage to the Alaska State Fair on Friday afternoon. The 126.4 pound giant fell just short of breaking the world record, 127 pounds set by another cabbage grown by Hubacek in 2009.
Mike Dunham / Anchorage Daily News
Gladiolas strike elegant poses at the Alaska State Fair Thursday September 1, 2011 in Palmer.
ERIK HILL / Anchorage Daily News
The Alaska State Fair in Palmer, AK on Thursday, August 25, 2011.
BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News
Senator Mark Begich rides the bumper cars with his son Jacob, 9, at the Alaska State Fair in Palmer, Alaska, on Sunday, August 28, 2011. The Alaska State Fair attracted a large crowd on a warm and sunny Sunday.
Marc Lester / Anchorage Daily News
The Alaska State Fair in Palmer, AK on Thursday, August 25, 2011.
BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News
Chloe St-Jean-Richard performs on the German Wheel with Cirque Magnifique at the Alaska State Fair Thursday September 1, 2011 in Palmer.
ERIK HILL / Anchorage Daily News
Piglets pile on top of each other for a snooze at the Alaska State Fair Thursday September 1, 2011 in Palmer.
ERIK HILL / Anchorage Daily News
Zan Alda and Jessica Broussard, left, perform with Kevin Allen. The Pirates for Hire entertainment troupe performs on the grandstand lawn at the Alaska State Fair on Saturday, August 27, 2011.
Marc Lester / Anchorage Daily News
The Alaska State Fair in Palmer, AK on Thursday, August 25, 2011.
BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News
The Alaska State Fair in Palmer, AK on Thursday, August 25, 2011.
BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News
Randy Pratt of Anchorage waves to his daughter on the Round Up ride at the Alaska State Fair on Monday. The Alaska State Fair was well attended on its final day, Labor Day, September 5, 2011.
Marc Lester / Anchorage Daily News
Ruben Martin performs bicycle tricks with Cirque Magnifique at the Alaska State Fair Thursday September 1, 2011 in Palmer.
ERIK HILL / Anchorage Daily News
Annuals collect awards at the Alaska State Fair Thursday September 1, 2011 in Palmer.
ERIK HILL / Anchorage Daily News
The Alaska State Fair in Palmer, AK on Thursday, August 25, 2011.
BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News
The Alaska State Fair in Palmer, AK on Thursday, August 25, 2011.
BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News
Selah Rees performs on the Bluebonnet stage at the Alaska State Fair Thursday September 1, 2011 in Palmer.
ERIK HILL / Anchorage Daily News
Dahlias draw attention at the Alaska State Fair Thursday September 1, 2011 in Palmer.
ERIK HILL / Anchorage Daily News
Melanie James with the Outback In Alaska show visits with Jack a red kangaroo just before the first show opened at The Alaska State Fair in Palmer, AK on Thursday, August 25, 2011.
BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News
Tony Sheppard sprays bubbles from the Harkey Concession stand at the Alaska State Fair on Saturday, August 27, 2011.
Marc Lester / Anchorage Daily News
The Alaska State Fair in Palmer, AK on Thursday, August 25, 2011.
BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News
Riley Layton, 10, of Wasilla takes a victory lap after outperforming a porker in a match race at the Kenai Peninsula Racing Pigs show at the Alaska State Fair Thursday September 1, 2011 in Palmer.
ERIK HILL / Anchorage Daily News
Ken and Elizabeth McMeans tour the grounds after hosting the Kenai Peninsula Racing Pigs show at the Alaska State Fair Thursday September 1, 2011 in Palmer.
ERIK HILL / Anchorage Daily News
Tim Pack of Anchorage assembles a forest planting of variegated ficus trees while staffing the bonsai exhibit at the Alaska State Fair Thursday September 1, 2011 in Palmer.
ERIK HILL / Anchorage Daily News
Dancers from Discover Dance in Wasilla perform on the Colony Stage Sunday. The Alaska State Fair attracted a large crowd on a warm and sunny Sunday, August 28, 2011.
Marc Lester / Anchorage Daily News
Cally Elise performs in her Piper character Saturday. The Pirates for Hire entertainment troupe performs on the grandstand lawn at the Alaska State Fair on Saturday, August 27, 2011.
Marc Lester / Anchorage Daily News
The Alaska State Fair in Palmer, AK on Thursday, August 25, 2011.
BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News
Fairgoers take in the Kenai Peninsula Racing Pigs show at the Alaska State Fair Thursday September 1, 2011 in Palmer.
ERIK HILL / Anchorage Daily News
Boxer the broad-breasted bronze turkey is coaxed back toward his pen following a cleaning by Della Tryon, 12, and mom Mary at the Alaska State Fair Thursday September 1, 2011 in Palmer. Della is a member of the Wasilla Explorers 4-H group.
ERIK HILL / Anchorage Daily News
Leslie Nutter of Scenic, Arizona trains her lens on dahlias at the Alaska State Fair Thursday September 1, 2011 in Palmer. "It's all desert," she said of her surroundings back home. "We have flowers, but nothing like this!"
ERIK HILL / Anchorage Daily News
The Alaska State Fair in Palmer, AK on Thursday, August 25, 2011.
BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News
The Alaska State Fair in Palmer, AK on Thursday, August 25, 2011.
BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News
Kaitlyn Whitten, 11, of Wasilla sets off in a match race against a pig at the Kenai Peninsula Racing Pigs show at the Alaska State Fair Thursday September 1, 2011 in Palmer. Kaitlyn won easily over a petulant porker that had to be coaxed out of the starting gate.
ERIK HILL / Anchorage Daily News
Mary Tryon, left, and daughter Della, 12, coax Boxer the broad-breasted bronze turkey back into his pen following cleaning at the Alaska State Fair Thursday September 1, 2011 in Palmer. Della is a member of the Wasilla Explorers 4-H group.
ERIK HILL / Anchorage Daily News
Some award winning dahlias are included in this display inside the barn at the Alaska State Fair. The Alaska State Fair attracted a large crowd on a warm and sunny Sunday, August 28, 2011.
Marc Lester / Anchorage Daily News
The Alaska State Fair in Palmer, AK on Thursday, August 25, 2011.
BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News
The Alaska State Fair in Palmer, AK on Thursday, August 25, 2011.
BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News
Fairgoers stretch while playing along with emcee Ken McMeans at the Kenai Peninsula Racing Pigs spectacle at the Alaska State Fair Thursday September 1, 2011 in Palmer.
ERIK HILL / Anchorage Daily News
A newly hatched chick is warmed under a lamp in a Triple D Farm and Hatchery display inside the barn at the Alaska State Fair. The Alaska State Fair attracted a large crowd on a warm and sunny Sunday, August 28, 2011.
Marc Lester / Anchorage Daily News
The Alaska State Fair in Palmer, AK on Thursday, August 25, 2011.
BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News
The Alaska State Fair in Palmer, AK on Thursday, August 25, 2011.
BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News
The Alaska State Fair in Palmer, AK on Thursday, August 25, 2011.
BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News
Stephanie Bouchard and Simon Nadeau perform balanced atop a ladder during the Cirque Magnifique show at the Alaska State Fair Thursday September 1, 2011 in Palmer.
ERIK HILL / Anchorage Daily News
Fairgoers pour in just after noon as two-for-one deals kick in from noon to 5 p.m. on Alaska Grown Day at the Alaska State Fair Thursday September 1, 2011 in Palmer.
ERIK HILL / Anchorage Daily News
The Alaska State Fair in Palmer, AK on Thursday, August 25, 2011.
BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News
The Alaska State Fair in Palmer, AK on Thursday, August 25, 2011.
BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News
The Alaska State Fair in Palmer, AK on Thursday, August 25, 2011.
BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News
Julian Kristek, 7, of Palmer holds his Pekin duck at left and Caleb Glasser, 8, of Palmer holds his Brahma chicken during the 4-H Small Fry Showmanship competition in the barn at the Alaska State Fair. The Alaska State Fair was well attended on its final day, Labor Day, September 5, 2011.
Marc Lester / Anchorage Daily News
Autumn Hayes, 3, makes tentative friends with a goat while touring farm exhibits with mom Rebecca at the Alaska State Fair Thursday September 1, 2011 in Palmer. The two are from Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson.
ERIK HILL / Anchorage Daily News
Dale Marshall of Anchorage is dwarfed by an Atlantic Giant Pumpkin that he estimates to be around 1,780-pounds on Monday, Aug. 29, 2011. The giant fruit was started by seed on April 1, and has a 202-inch circumference. Marshall plans to enter the pumpkin in the Alaska State Fair during the weigh-in on Wednesday. Marshall holds the state record with a 1,101 pound pumpkin that he entered in the state fair last year.
BILL ROTH / Anchorage Daily News
The Kenai Peninsula Racing Pigs round a turn during competition in the Pebble Corral at the Alaska State Fair Thursday September 1, 2011 in Palmer.
ERIK HILL / Anchorage Daily News
The Pirates for Hire entertainment troupe performs on the grandstand lawn at the Alaska State Fair on Saturday, August 27, 2011.
Marc Lester / Anchorage Daily News
The Shanghai Chinese Acrobats perform on the Colony Stage Monday. The Alaska State Fair was well attended on its final day, Labor Day, September 5, 2011.
Marc Lester / Anchorage Daily News
Several varieties of dahlia are on display at the Alaska State Fair Thursday September 1, 2011 in Palmer.
ERIK HILL / Anchorage Daily News
Tiimothy Downing, 13, of Wasilla brushes his Shetland ram Dodge at the Alaska State Fair Thursday September 1, 2011 in Palmer. They are very hard to keep clean," because of their curly wool, he said.
ERIK HILL / Anchorage Daily News
An Atlantic Giant pumpkin, an English marrow and a long gourd are among Dale Marshall's entries awaiting delivery to the Alaska State Fair Wednesday morning August 31, 2011 from his home in Sand Lake.
ERIK HILL / Anchorage Daily News
The Alaska State Fair in Palmer, AK on Thursday, August 25, 2011.
BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News
Breanna Potter's hair catches the wind as she rides the Tornado at the Alaska State Fair. The Alaska State Fair was well attended on its final day, Labor Day, September 5, 2011.
Marc Lester / Anchorage Daily News
Produce proves popular at the Alaska State Fair Thursday September 1, 2011 in Palmer.
ERIK HILL / Anchorage Daily News
Four-year-old Halie Lazar performs on the Colony Stage as part of the Discover Dance show Sunday. The Alaska State Fair attracted a large crowd on a warm and sunny Sunday, August 28, 2011.
Marc Lester / Anchorage Daily News
Nancy Rouas with the Outback In Alaska show and a rainbow lorikeet at The Alaska State Fair in Palmer, AK on Thursday, August 25, 2011.
BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News
Katrina Hammond of Palmer prepares her boer goat, Javelin, for judging at the Alaska State Fair on Saturday, August 27, 2011.
Marc Lester / Anchorage Daily News
Dancers from the Irish Dance Academy of Alaska wait backstage to perform on the Colony State at the Alaska State Fair. The Alaska State Fair was well attended on its final day, Labor Day, September 5, 2011.
Marc Lester / Anchorage Daily News

PALMER -- What bloodthirsty corsairs have to do with the 75th anniversary of the Alaska State Fair is anyone's guess. But Pirates for Hire is proving to be a popular draw among this year's attractions.

The traveling troupe is performing in a tent off the Yellow Trail near the fair grandstand. Dressed in swashbuckling gear, long locks and swaggering boots, they take on characters reflective of cinematic buccaneers from Capt. Blood to Capt. Hook to Capt. Jack Sparrow.

In a mix of stunts, swordplay and comedy, they present their show three or four times a day. Between shows they stroll the grounds and pose for pictures with fans.

Pirates for Hire was created by Ted Shred, who is also in the cast. Like most in the troupe, Shred, a former rock drummer, has Hollywood credentials. The son of a Hollywood stunt man and animal trainer, he's worked in films like "Wayne's World 2" and "Naked Gun 33 1/3."

He really didn't plan on developing Pirates for Hire into a show, he said. It was more the result of chatting with colleagues and discovering a mutual fascination with piracy.

Shred was working on the set of "Charmed" when he ran into Mitchell Tagami and the two started talking about pirates. Tagami, who admits to having gotten into acting almost by accident by virtue of supplying cars for "Fast and Furious," eventually had a small part as an Asian pirate in the "Pirates of the Caribbean" movies. "I have almost the same costume in the movies as I do here," he said. But most people remember him for a brief scene in "Forgetting Sarah Marshall." "They say, 'Aren't you that guy in the bathroom?' "

"Ever since I was a kid, I loved the old pirate movies," he said. "I was always interested. But I never thought I'd actually be one."

Shred was also a fan of pirate flicks as a child. But he admits to a personal connection. A Dutch ancestor was a successful pirate, he said, accumulating a couple of castles that still stand in Holland.

Shred said he was using his movie connections to create themed events for celebrities like Eddie Murphy when he came up with the idea of pirate parties in 1992.

"It was a full-on business by 1998," he said. " 'Pirates of the Caribbean' came out in 1999. So I was ahead of the curve."

Today the company performs at fairs and events around the country. Right now eight members are in Alaska and another eight are at the Colorado State Fair.

The show is free. The performers are paid directly by the fair, which arranges for housing and meals.

"We don't charge for the photos," said Shred. "I'd feel awkward about that."

Noting the standing-room-only crowds, he said, "Everybody loves pirates, from 7 to 70, men and women." (The cast includes female buccaneer characters.) "To them we say: Come out and get in touch with your inner pirate."

Reach Mike Dunham at mdunham@adn.com or 257-4332.

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By MIKE DUNHAM
mdunham@adn.com