Mermaids, pirates and parrots took the stage at the Umatilla County Fair this week as part of “Let’s Pretend Pirate Adventure.”

The interactive performance allows children — and adults — to don costumes and become characters in a pirate-themed show. While younger children waved water wands, older children in vests and eye-patches dueled and navigated the high seas.

Even the Fair Court donned costumes for a Tuesday performance.

“We just showed up because we were going to watch, and she asked if we wanted to be a part of it,” Fair Queen Breanna Barton said. “It was a lot of fun. I’d do it again.”

While Barton became a mermaid for the pirate performance, princess Maritza Ibarra, of Stanfield, took on the role of a scarlet parrot.

“It brings you back to your childhood,” Ibarra said. “It was fun, and it makes you use your imagination.”

Developing imagination is one of the goals of the performance and the company behind it, Let’s Pretend Entertainment.

“We want to encourage kids to exercise their imagination,” Let’s Pretend owner Elisa Hays said Tuesday. “I believe very firmly that imagination has the power to change the world.”

Based out of Puyallup, Wash., Let’s Pretend has two teams of performers that travel throughout the United States. This year is the third time a team has stopped at the Umatilla County Fair.

“Each time we’ve done a difference show, and we love it,” Hays said. “We’ve had great audiences, full shows. We’ve had kids in the shows who were here in previous shows. They come back looking for it.”

But, Hays said, Let’s Pretend isn’t only for children.

“We want grown-ups to play like kids play,” she said. “It’s sad that we lose touch of play as we get older.”

Hays is no stranger to play. Tuesday, she led performances as “Captain Merry Mary” and convinced audience adults, including Otis Hopkins, of Pendleton, to became Captain Green Beard for an hour.

“It was cute,” Hopkins said after the show, removing a pirate hat. “That was fun.”


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