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Seattle’s Lake Union Wooden Boat Festival 2013 was the “Best Ever”

July 9, 2013

The Center for Wooden Boats 37th Lake Union Wooden Boat Festival is done, and wow, was that fun. We’re still counting the final numbers, but it appears more than 30-thousand people joined us for some part of the four day event that started on the 4th of July. That’s about the same total number as last year. But last year was a 5 day event; so we’re still seeing growing interested in all the historic boats, tours, toy boats, pond boats, kite making, the music, the food, Maritime Skills workshops, and more that go into the Wooden Boat Festival.

Opening the festival on the 4th of July is an unusual quirk of the calendar, and forces everyone to be on top of their game. There’s no soft start with things mostly in place…but a few days to get up to speed for the big Independence Day bash. We had to be ready to open big on the “big day”, and everything was in place, the boats, the workshops, the food from vendors like Ballard Brothers Seafood, The Curley Fry Guys, the World Sports Grille Beer Garden and all the many volunteers. It was a great day and night.

Festival 2013 Wide

And while we’re on the subject of volunteers, let us says one more time in case anyone is under the delusion that the CWB staff is responsible for this super fun summertime tradition, our volunteers rock. The staff can help herd the cats (thank you first time festival director Aislinn Palmer and Volunteer Coordinator Lara Schmidt) but this event could not happen without the hundreds of CWB supporters and volunteers who give up their time to man the welcome gates, cut the toy boat building blank hulls, staff the information booth, give the free boat rides on Lake Union, and also spend day after day hauling trash and recyclables to keep our pretty Lake Union Park clean and welcoming to the families that come. All those people in the green “Volunteer” Shirts are heroes to us. This party could not happen without their countless hours of dedication and hard work. And the amazing thing is that many of these same folks will be back at CWB this Sunday, ready to skipper the boats and give you all free rides again. They do it every Sunday year round. We stand in awe.

Before we go any further, lets pause to hear from the man responsible for all this fun on the water, CWB Founding Director Dick Wagner


“Each July 4th Festival expands on the hands on activities and learning experiences about our maritime heritage for people of all ages. This year families built El Toro sailboats, Adults build Biadarda Kayaks, everyone could take out rowboats, have rides on sailing boats of different rigs, ride in a steamboats, ride in electric power launches, ride in Aleut Umiaqs and dragon boats, have dock tours of about 115 different boats and ships, see demonstrations of maritime heritage skills, enjoy toy boat building and kite making for kids and pond boat sailing for the young, or young at heart.

This was the best Festival yet, but circle the July 4th weekend on your 2014 calendar. Next year will be even better!”

Dick Wagner
Our Ever optimistic Founding Director


Speaking of next year, thank you Dick, in 2014 we’ll be having a three day festival that opens on Friday, July 4th. Then it will continue through that weekend ending on Sunday July 6th. So it will be a day shorter, but no less fun. Well just pack all the fun in to a tighter calendar. The good news is that a short three day festival will encourage boats that can’t come to a long event to sign up in 2014. That should mean more boats we haven’t seen for a few years will polish the brightwork and come back to festival.

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We want to pause for a moment to offer our condolences to the boat owners who lost their speedboats in the fire right before the fireworks at the North end of the lake. Sure those fiberglass boats are not our cup of tea, but every boat owner loves his or her baby, and it’s always sad when something like this happens. It’s another reminder that there are a lot of us living in Seattle now, and we need to be careful and make sure that our actions don’t hurt anyone else.

So, where did Lake Union Wooden Boat Festival goers this year come from? The answer is, all over. We welcomed guest from all over the US and all over the world. There were folks from Israel, Holland, Poland, England, Canada, Cuba, Ethiopia, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Hong Kong, Pakistan, India, Germany, Sweden, Columbia and Spain. We also had friends pay a call from Seabrook, Texas; Batavia, Illinois; Syracuse, New York; Long Beach, California; Houston, Texas; Honolulu, Hawaii; Lake Jackson, Texas; Twin Falls, Idaho; Plano, Texas; Tampa, Florida; Tucson, Arizona; Las Vegas, Nevada; Atlanta, Georgia; Coleville, Texas; Soda Springs, Idaho; Portland, Oregon; Dexter, Michigan; Detroit, Michigan; Safety Harbor, Florida; Vieira, Florida; Moscow, Idaho; Algona, Michigan; Cincinnati, Ohio; Hanford, California; Tulsa, Oklahoma; Denton, Texas; Sacramento, California; Spokane, Washington; Haines, Alaska; Snoqualmie, Washington; Denver, Colorado; Arvada, Arizona; Little Rock, Arizona; Milford, New Jersey; Kansas City, Missouri; Bennett, Colorado; Waco, Texas; Milwaukee, Wisconsin; Redwood City, California; Chicago, Illinois; Savannah, Georgia; Los Angeles, California; Oakland, California; Albuquerque, New Mexico; Tilden, Nebraska; Los Alamos, New Mexico; Dallas, Texas; Dripping Springs, Texas; Albany, Oregon; Austin, Texas; Cleveland, Ohio; San Antonio, Texas; San Jose, California; Fairbanks, Alaska; and San Diego, California

So, did all those people have a good time? Well, judging by the comments left on our comment wall and on Facebook, we think so:

“Great! Why didn’t I come sooner?” – Liz S., Mercer Island, WA

“Great place, lovely atmosphere” – Jack & Joanne L., Kirkland, WA

“So beautiful! I love the variety of boats that you have.” – Sarah O., Pemaquid, ME

“Beautiful, lovely Steamboat ride!” Jamie S., Lake Stevens, WA

“You are an awesome organization.” Carmen M., Seattle, WA

“Brought back loads of good memories” Anonymous

“Funnest day of my life” Anonymous

“Wooden boats rule!” Anonymous

“Fantastic installation! Thank you for sharing Puget Sound’s rich history.” Anonymous

“Such a wonderful way to spend a sunny Saturday!” Anonymous

“Fantastic! South Lake Union needs more festivals like this!” Anonymous

We could not put it better ourselves. This is one fantastic party that all of Seattle can come out to enjoy. The only sad thing was waving goodbye to all those boats, and realizing it’s still a year until the 38th Lake Union Wooden Boat Festival. But if you are suffering from WBWS, Wooden Boat Withdrawal Syndrome? We have good news for you, it’s only two months until the Wooden Boat Festival in Port Townsend! And in other good news, Kyle, Levi and the volunteer crew (there they are again) who have been putting the docks back together this week have been running hard, and ahead of schedule. They hadn’t planned on getting the boat livery up and running until this weekend but, surprise, we’re going to be ready to welcome folks back to our boat rental on Thursday…well before schedule

Before we sign off, and take a nap, we want to once again thank our sponsors. These companies, foundations, and government offices have choices to make from many wonderful and deserving non-profits who ask for their support. We are so grateful that they choose to help keep the boats afloat at The Center for Wooden Boats. Festival sponsors include: Vulcan Real Estate, Holland American Line, World Sports Grille, West Marine, Pemco Insurance, The Seattle Mariners, Thain Boatworks/Earthwise Ventures, KPLU-FM, KUOW-FM, Classic KING-FM, The Drachen Foundation, 4Culture, The City of Seattle office of Arts & Culture, Seattle Parks and Recreation,  Pilgrim Media Services, and @ Lake Union Park.   We would also like to thank Seafair and its fireworks sponsors Starbucks, Microsoft and the Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce. We can do the festival without fireworks…but you all know that it makes Independence Day special when we can enjoy fireworks as the sun goes down.

That’s it for now: so remember to strain your varnish, don’t skip on the prep work when you are painting, sharpen your chisels, clean up the shop when you’re done, and when you need a spot to sit and look at the water….you know the docks at The Center for Wooden Boats are always open.

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