The Sam Connor Shop is where a few boat enthusiasts planned the first ever Wooden Boat Festival, which took place in Port Townsend in 1977. It has now grown in to one of the biggest events of the season, bringing in thousands of people and hundreds of boats each year. (Northwest Maritime Center)

The Sam Connor Shop is where a few boat enthusiasts planned the first ever Wooden Boat Festival, which took place in Port Townsend in 1977. It has now grown in to one of the biggest events of the season, bringing in thousands of people and hundreds of boats each year. (Northwest Maritime Center)

Reunion to mark 40th Wooden Boat Festival in Port Townsend

“We’re just trying to gather people together in the same spirit that created the festival,” one organizer said.

PORT TOWNSEND — The Port Townsend Wooden Boat Festival will celebrate its 40th anniversary by inviting the people and the boats present at the inaugural festival to attend this year’s festivities.

“We’re just trying to gather people together in the same spirit that created the festival,” said Barb Trailer, director of the Wooden Boat Festival.

Along with the regularly scheduled activities and events that are planned for Friday through next Sunday, festival organizers will host a reunion party for those who founded the now hugely popular festival.

Following the presentation of the Lifetime Achievement Awards on Thursday at the Northwest Maritime Center will be a reunion celebration starting at about 7 p.m.

The event is open to the public, and organizers are encouraging fans of the festival to come down, have a beer and toast to the festival, which has grown from a small collection of wooden-boat enthusiasts to one of the biggest annual events on the North Olympic Peninsula.

“It’s not going to be fancy. We won’t be putting down tablecloths or anything,” Trailer said.

“It’s open for everyone and just a time to look back at 40 years and celebrate all that has been.”

Another special event this year will be the R2AK Blazer Party, so named because of the thrift-shop blazers that will be issued to competitors in this summer’s race from Port Townsend to Alaska.

The party is set from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Friday on the second floor of the Northwest Maritime Center, 431 Water St.

Details of next year’s third annual Race to Alaska will be announced. At least one change in the rules will be made to next year’s race, promised Jake Beattie, Northwest Maritime Center director.

Tickets to the Wooden Boat Festival can be purchased in advance at www.woodenboat.org. They are $17 for one day and $35 for all three days.

Discount tickets for seniors 65 and older, students and active military personnel with identification will be available at the gate only. The one-day discounted ticket is $12. For the whole weekend, the discounted ticket is $25.

Tickets for the Blazer Party are $30.

Now a summer staple, the Wooden Boat Festival started simply and with little fanfare in 1977 but was an almost instant success.

Even with very little advertising or media coverage, the festival’s debut brought in more than 200 boats and 1,000 registered attendees and was described as a “successful surprise” by the weekly Port Townsend Leader, according to a news release from the maritime center.

Forty years later, the festival now draws more than 30,000 attendees and more than 300 wooden boats from around the world each summer.

Organizers hope to make this year’s festival the biggest yet, with a weekend packed with events fit for everyone.

Seminars, which are planned daily, will include such topics as Norse boatbuilding techniques and human-powered submarines. Some 120 presentations are planned with dozens of exhibitors.

Children can build a boat, seek treasure and ride a longboat in Kids’ Cove.

People of all ages can take dockside tours and sails on the Adventuress and the Lady Washington tall ships, as well as on longboats, kayaks and the Zodiac, a classic schooner built in 1924.

As usual, there will also be plenty of live music, food and local beers.

The full schedule is online at www.woodenboat.org.

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Jefferson County Editor/Reporter Cydney McFarland can be reached at 360-385-2335, ext. 5550, or at [email protected].

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