2017-08-10 / Front Page

Boat Show Honors ‘Best of 40’ for 2017

By Kevin R. Hess

Friday, August 11 and Saturday, August 12, mark the 40th anniversary of Les Cheneaux Islands Antique Wooden Boat Show. The theme of this year’s show is “Best of 40.” The show will showcase many of the Best in Show winners of the past 39 years. All boats awarded Best in Show have been invited back to be honored.

Boats from the Les Cheneaux area and from as far as California and Florida participate in the show. A variety of boats, including dinghies, rowboats, canoes, launches, sailboats, utility boats, runabouts, large cruisers, racers, and classic non-wood boats will be featured. Some of the country’s finest antique wooden boats call Les Cheneaux home. Many of them are still used daily during the summer months as primary modes of transportation to and from cottages in the Les Cheneaux Islands. Les Cheneaux has a rich heritage in boat building and repair.

Charles “Chuck” Letts and the late Ken Horsburgh, who were seasonal residents in Les Cheneaux, founded the Antique Wooden Boat Show in 1978. Each had beautiful, antique wooden boats and felt that there were more boats from the early 1900’s still being used in the Les Cheneaux Islands than anywhere else due to the cold waters and short boating season. The first show was organized by 30 volunteers and featured more than 100 boats and 6,000 spectators. Today, the event attracts more than 150 boats and 7,000 spectators, and has more than 300 volunteers. It is known as one of the largest shows featuring antique and classic wooden boats.

In addition to the past winners returning, two other boats will be featured. The first is Breezing Thru, a 1930, 26-foot Hacker Craft owned by Mr. Letts. This boat is one that launched Hessel’s show. After winning multiple awards with Breezing Thru at a boat show in Clayton, New York, Mr. Letts and Mr. Horsburgh started discussing the potential of having a similar show in the Les Cheneaux area. The second featured boat will be last year’s Best of Show winner, Garfield, a 1932 33-foot Garwood owned by William Parfet of Bay Harbor.

The 41st annual Festival of Art is held in conjunction with the boat show. The art festival began in 1977 and partnered with the boat show when it launched in 1978. Artists will display and sell a variety of artwork, including photographs, paintings, pottery, stained glass, textiles, and jewelry. Approximately 65 artists from across the Midwest participate in the juried art show.

The weekend begins on Friday, with the Antique and Classic Boat Corral and Auction from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. The auction will take place at 5 p.m. at the Maritime Museum in Cedarville. The 4th Annual Classic Car Show is also happening on Friday, with registration from 10 a.m. to noon at Les Cheneaux Community Library, followed by the show in downtown Cedarville. The award ceremony is at 4:30 p.m. The Cedarville Trojans Athletic Boosters will be offering a whitefish or chicken dinner from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. at Cedarville High School.

Saturday’s activities begin with a pancake breakfast sponsored by the Les Cheneaux Lions Club from 7 a.m. to 11 a.m. at Mertaugh’s Storage Shed in Hessel, followed by the opening ceremony at 10 a.m. led by American Legion Pickford Post 323, featuring soloist Bre Kinnunen, pastor of Faith Lutheran Church in Sault Ste. Marie, who will sing the national anthem. The show will close with the awards ceremony at 4 p.m. There are 19 Class awards and 10 other awards, including a youth judging award, Most Original, Best of Show, and “Best of 40 Years” showcase award. The day will also feature concessions, entertainment throughout the day from Lise White and Friends on the Hessel Marina lawn, and a channel cruise exploring the Les Cheneaux Islands. The cruise will depart from Hessel at noon and 2:30 p.m. aboard Star Line Mackinac Island Ferry. Each cruise will last approximately one and a half hours. Cost is $20 for adults and $15 for children ages 12 and younger. Star Line is also offering ferry service to the boat show. The boat will depart Mackinaw City at 9 a.m. and make its way to Mackinac Island. It will depart the Island at 10 a.m. for Hessel. Cost is $35 for adults and $20 for children. The price includes boat show admission and a channel cruise. Tickets can be purchased by visiting www.mackinacferrry.com or by calling 906-643-7635.

A youth tent will be available from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. featuring activities and crafts aimed at children ages 12 and younger, led by volunteers from the Maritime Museum. Sailboat kits will be available for children to color, paint, and design, along with ring toss games, sand art, and puzzles. For the youth judging award, approximately 10 youth ages 8 to 12 will be chosen as judges. Adult volunteers will choose 10 boats from different classes for the youth to judge. They will go to each boat, talk to the skippers and owners, and judge each boat on a scale of 1-10 in categories such as color, interior design, motor, and other attributes. They will return to the youth tent and tally up their scores. The boat receiving the highest score will receive the youth “Best in Show” award during the award ceremony. Shirley Jewell, co-chair of the show, says the youth tent helps to engage young people who may otherwise not be as interested in the boats.

“We typically have between 100 and 125 youth,” she said. “This gives them a hands-on way to get to know the boats, and gain an appreciation for the boat show. What’s interesting is, using different guidelines, the youth award winner usually ends up being one of the same boats that the adult judges choose.”

John and Diana Grenier, local artists, will be on hand to sign their poster commemorating the Les Cheneaux Islands Antique Wooden Boat Show. Following the awards ceremony, spectators are encouraged to stay behind to watch the boats leave the docks.

All events are at Hessel Marina. Admission is $7 for those 12 years of age and older, and free for children younger than 12. No animals will be allowed. The event is sponsored by the Les Cheneaux Historical Association in cooperation with Mertaugh Boat Works, Hessel Harbor Association, and Hessel Marina. All proceeds from the event are used to maintain and enhance the Historical and Maritime Museums, both located in Cedarville.

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