Wiscasset Schoonerfest readies for a relaunch

Sun, 02/25/2024 - 8:45am

    A group of community-minded volunteers are in the early stages of planning the return of Wiscasset’s Schoonerfest, celebration of the town’s seafaring past and present-day working waterfront. Schoonerfest is being shortened to a one-day event. 

    “Schoonerfest Day 2024 is about ‘going local,’” Selectwoman Terry Heller told Wiscasset Newspaper Friday morning, Feb. 23. “We want everyone who calls ‘Maine’s Prettiest Village’ home – and those who may be visiting – to come down to the waterfront and participate in boat races and family activities. Almost everything we’re planning will take place down at the recreation pier on Saturday, Sept. 21, noon-9 p.m.”

    Wiscasset, continued Heller, is renowned and celebrated for its seafaring history, its art and 19th century architecture. It’s recognized too for its spacious, deep-water harbor on the Sheepscot River that looks today much as it did 100 years ago. “The natural beauty and access to our waterfront continues to be among our greatest assets, especially for commercial lobstermen, fishermen and recreational boaters,” she continued.

    The celebration’s emphasis, she said, will be about being on the water, or simply enjoying activities near the water. “We’re hoping to introduce people to kayaking, canoeing and paddle boarding along with giving people the opportunity to take a ride on a local lobster boat or schooner. We also want to provide an opportunity for children and families to build cardboard boats to float near the boat ramps, or in the shallows of Bradbury Cove.”

    Schoonerfest planners are looking for people who want to kayak or canoe from the town landing over to White’s Island. A local history buff will be there to lead visitors around the island telling of when schooners built here in the 1920s and ’30s at the F.F. Pendleton Boatyard. They hope to have a naturalist there too to point out the island’s foliage and migratory species.

    There will be sea shanty singing, colonial re-enactors, a silent auction of schooner silhouettes, a High Street historical walking tour of early sea captains’ homes, food tents, local arts and crafts and more. “We’re planning to have our first Schoonerfest Lighted Boat & Paddle Parade in the early evening. That will be followed by a community dance on the pier featuring live music by the Salty Dogs,” added Heller.

    Schoonerfest’s first two years, in 2021 and 2022,  included the return the When and If, the two-masted schooner built in Wiscasset in 1939 for Army legend General George S. Patton. The celebration took a year off in 2023 which was planned for pier renovations. To learn more about 2024 Schoonerfest or to become involved, contact Heller at tlhheller@gmail.com