GLOUCESTER, Mass. (WBZ NewsRadio) — The 38th annual Gloucester Schooner Festival kicked off on Thursday for a weekend of friendly competition and sailing around America's oldest fishing port.
The weekend event began Thursday evening with the Schooner Challenge, where local schooner captains participated in an "obstacle course" competition in Gloucester Harbor. Passengers onboard the schooners were given a set of tasks to complete in order to win the Run Bottle Award.
"Getting on board these vessels is not like just getting on a little ship, some of them are 120 feet, you know 26-foot beam wooden vessels, they creak, they groan, they fly like the wind, and it is an experience like no other," said Michael DeKoster, Executive Director of Maritime Gloucester.
On Friday, over two dozen schooners will gather in the Gloucester Harbor for the public to view from the shore. At 6 P.M. the Gloucester Block Party will begin with shopping, food, and entertainment for patrons to enjoy. Event-goers can register for an evening harbor lighthouse cruise with Cape Ann Harbor Tours.
Maritime Heritage Day kicks off on Saturday around downtown Gloucester. For the event, Maritime Gloucester will open its campus to allow participants to learn about maritime heritage, watch live demonstrations, see the schooners sail, and enjoy the Heritage Galley food truck court which will open for the first time this year.
"We get to show the younger generation what life was like over a hundred years ago now when they started using these boats to fish," Max Ramsey, a volunteer said. "We make festivals out of it and make all these big events, but when it comes down to it it's something you can actually learn about Gloucester while you're having fun and not just come here to look at the pretty fireworks."
Max Ramsey and his dad have been volunteering at the event for years and recently purchased a Schooner of their own.
While the day features an array of educational events, on Saturday evening a boat parade of lights will take place. Boat owners who take part decorate their boats for a visual display that will start in the Annisquam River and end in the Smith's Cove area of the harbor, according to Maritime Gloucester. To end the day, a firework display will take place after the sun sets at 9:15 P.M.
On Sunday, the entire fleet of schooners will take part in the Parade of Sail beginning at 10 A.M. After, the Mayor's Race will begin for schooners in small, medium, and large categories to compete for the Esperanto Cup, The Ned Cameron Trophy, The Betty Ramsey Award, and the George Nichols and Amanda Madeira Woman at the Wheel Award.
WBZ's Karyn Regal (Karynregal) has more: