Arts and Entertainment

Boat fest rides wave of success

Thousands came to look and chat about wooden boats this June at the Bainbridge Island Wooden Boat Festival. - Conor Musgrave photo
Thousands came to look and chat about wooden boats this June at the Bainbridge Island Wooden Boat Festival.
— image credit: Conor Musgrave photo

The Bainbridge Island Wooden Boat Festival is an infrequent event, thrown by locals, for fellow enthusiasts. But when the festival does float into town, it makes quite a splash.

“It was wildly successful,” said Bob Schoonmaker, owner of the Chandlery at Winslow Wharf and organizer of the event.

“Boat owners welcomed hundreds and hundreds of people onto their boats,” he said. “Everybody had a great time.”

Nearly 50 wooden boats with Bainbridge Island connections converged onto the Harbour Pub dock on June 15 and 16. It was a celebration of the craft, but mostly it was a way for admirers to talk shop.

“This is about building community,” Schoonmaker said. “We were successful in building community with Bainbridge Islanders.”

Heads were not counted at the first Bainbridge Island Wooden Boat Festival, but Schoonmaker “guestimated” that between 1,000 and 1,500 visited in 2011.

This year’s festival was a resounding success, drawing more than 3,800 people over the Father’s Day weekend; a factor in the festival’s popularity.

“We had a lot of kids coming down with their dads which is a pretty special way to spend the day with your dad,” he said.

And perhaps the best aspect of the event was its price; free. It’s something that organizers hope they can continue should they decide to put on another festival in the future.

“We don’t want to make this about money,” Schoonmaker said. “The big thing for us is that we want it to be free. We didn’t sell anything, not T-shirts or hats.”

Schoonmaker again stressed that the festival is chiefly about fostering a community of Bainbridge Islanders with a penchant for wooden boats.

The island’s wooden boat festival has established a website, www.biwbf.info, as well as its own Facebook page.

Schoonmaker hopes that people will go on Facebook and share their stories and photos from the festival.

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