BRADENTON -- Hundreds of Pittsburgh Pirates fans will be invading Ninth Street West in front of McKechnie Field on Saturday to participate in the eighth annual Pirate Fest.
Mayor Wayne Poston says they are expecting a large crowd this year.
"With all the new improvements made to McKechnie," Poston said, "people will come just to check them out."
The city completed a $10 million facelift of the 90-year-old ball field in time for spring training.
The mayor predicts a good time for all, just as in years past.
"It's a lot of fun," he said.
Pirate Fest is free and includes family-friendly activities like face painting, inflatable games, giveaways and live music with Matthew Huff.
Team mascots Pirate Parrot and Marty the Marauder will be on hand and up to their usual hijinks.
Festival-goers will be able to have their photo taken for a free commemorative postcard and several Pirates players will be available for autographs.
Pirate Fest will start at 10 a.m. and end at 12:30 p.m., but Ninth Street West between 13th and 17th avenues will be closed from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. to give vendors time to set up and take down their equipment.
Parking at the Boys and Girls Club can be accessed from the back entrance on Sixth Street West.
The large crowds looking for parking will benefit the merchants and restaurants in the Village of the Arts, which borders Ninth Street West to the west, notes Linda Bronkema, president of the Artist Guild of Manatee.
"People park in the village for free and discover us," Bronkema said.
She has had people come into her shop, Bits and Pieces, a quilt and fabric arts gallery at 1303 13th Ave. W., and say they came back to the Village after being at a game the previous week.
"After the game they're tired," Bronkema said, "but they say they were glad they found us."
Along with the various shops and galleries, there are five restaurants in the Village where visitors to McKechnie Field can go before or after games, she said.
As part of Pirate Fest, Pirates legend Steve Blass will be signing his new book "A Pirate for Life" from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. inside the McKechnie gates.
Blass pitched for the Pirates from 1964-1974 and won a World Series in 1971. He now is a broadcaster for the team.
Only those who have tickets for the game between the Pirates and the Minnesota Twins, which starts at 1:05 p.m., will be able to see Blass and have their books signed.
A post-game concert with country music singer Chris Lane will be on the new boardwalk at the ball field.