Michigan Schooner Festival
By Rick Coates 9/7/09
The first ever Michigan Schooner Festival sets sail this weekend along the shores of West Grand Traverse Bay. The three-day celebration of the Great Lakes maritime legacy is hosted by the Maritime Heritage Alliance and will feature at least eight schooners, tours, sailing excursions, food, music, races and even a tall ship parade.
For festival organizers this event has been a long time in the making. It epitomizes the work that the Maritime Heritage Alliance has been doing since its inception in 1982 to promote and preserve the history of wooden boats in the Great Lakes.
This will be a perfect opportunity to demonstrate our mission of sharing the maritime heritage of the Great Lakes with the public, said Mark Thompson, executive director of the Alliance. We are expecting thousands to show up for this inaugural event.
Thompson says there will be something for everyone.
Right from the start, with all the schooners arriving and docking on Friday night til the festival closes at 3 p.m. on Sunday, we have events for everyone, said Thompson. Admission is only $5 per person, and for children the ticket includes admission to the ships and five tickets for carnival games. There will be maritime-inspired music from Song of the Lakes, The Wild Sullys and Lee Murdock.
One of the highlights of the weekend will be the opportunity to set sail on one of the visiting schooners. This requires an additional ticket and they are selling rapidly so I encourage those interested to purchase in advance, Thompson said.
Another highlight will be the Progressive Ship Tour on Saturday evening.
Participants will be in for an enchanted evening as we pair the schooners with some of the best food and beverages from the region, said Thompson. You go from ship-to-ship, and eat and drink, all while enjoying the music of Song of The Lakes.
No celebration of maritime heritage would be complete without pirates.
We have a couple of pirate events; with a theatrical group from Ann Arbor performing a reenactment of a pirate siege on Friday night. There will be pirate reenactments and cannon demonstrations throughout the day on Saturday as well, said Thompson. On Sunday we will have a pancake breakfast with the pirates down at the open space.
The Michigan Schooner Festival will host two parties in the evening to celebrate the weekend activities. On Friday night after the activities wrap up along the bay, schooner captains and others will gather for a pint or two at the Right Brain Brewery. This is open to the public and there is no ticket required. Saturday night will feature an all-ages party at Lil Bo Pub & Grille with Jazz North performing. This is a smoke-free venue and tickets are $10 for adults and $5 for kids.
Filmmaker Rich Brauer, president and one of the founders of the Alliance, is excited that the organization and its many volunteers will get some recognition for their efforts.
There have been countless volunteer hours that have gone into the reconstruction of several boats by the Alliance. These boats -- such as the Madeline and the Welcome -- are very visible in the Bay, but I am not sure that people have any idea who has been responsible for this, said Brauer. So this weekend will be a great event for our community and for the Maritime Heritage Alliance.
About the Alliance:
The Maritime Heritage Alliance, located in Traverse City at the Grand Traverse Heritage Center on Sixth Street, is recognized for its success in the construction and restoration of wooden vessels, and its efforts to promote and preserve the history of wooden boats in the Great Lakes. Founded 27 years ago by a group of historic boat buffs, the Alliance has expanded every year and now counts among its friends and membership people from all 50 states and numerous foreign countries.
The Michigan Schooner Festival will take place September 11 -13 at the Open Space and the Clinch Park Marina in Traverse City. The events kick off early Friday evening with a parade of schooners.
Advance tickets are suggested and may be purchased online at michiganschoonerfestival.org where a complete schedule of activities is listed. For additional details contact the Maritime Heritage Alliance at 231- 946-2647.