Set sail for 28th annual Camden Windjammer Festival, Sept. 1 - 2
Event has passed
CAMDEN — Set sail for Camden this Labor Day weekend, Sept. 1-2, 2023, when the harbor will once again fill with the sails and masts of windjammers and schooners. Friday, Sept. 1, brings the launch of Camden’s 28th annual maritime celebration, the Camden Windjammer Festival, which features the largest gathering of windjammers in the northeast. The festival offers two days of family-friendly events, spirited competition and nautical activities, a combination that one can only experience on Labor Day Weekend in Camden.
More than a dozen vendors will be set up on the public landing and CWF opens Friday at 9 a.m. Throughout the day Friday, a silent auction will be underway, with bidders vying to join the guests and crew for dinner aboard Maine Windjammer Association vessels Friday night.
Settle in Friday around 1 p.m., on a bench at the public landing, and watch as the windjammers parade into the harbor throughout the afternoon. Capt. Jim Sharp, who celebrated his 90th birthday Aug. 23, provides running commentary on the history and glory of each vessel as it makes its way to a berth at the public docks. The vessels are greeted with cheers from the crowd, and each captain is gifted a pineapple, a symbol of hospitality.
Friday’s morning schedule includes radio-controlled boat races in the harbor, a lobster hauling demonstration, a downtown treasure hunt and a Camden walking tour with locals. Make your way around the head of the harbor to the stage in Harbor Park and enjoy an outdoor concert and the Schooner Talent Show, followed by grand fireworks show over the harbor.
Saturday morning begins early with the Camden Rotary Club Pancake Breakfast and the start of the Camden Fire Department Windjammer 5K. The Lobster Crate Race at high tide (1 p.m.) is Saturday’s highlight, and features contestants racing across a line of more than 50 crates, trying to avoid falling into the harbor.
Also on Saturday, kids can join Amy Rollins and build a cork boat while the Pirates of the Dark Rose skulk around the festival seeking cohorts. Deep-roots Mainer Stuart Young has gathered some friends to answer questions and regale passersby about Camden’s maritime history and the Snow Bowl’s internationally famous U.S. National Toboggan Championships. As the noon hour approaches and your belly starts to rumble, stop by the big tent for the West Bay Rotary Chowder Challenge and help pick the winner of the tastiest recipe.
During the Festival, Bridget Qualey, who used to be the cook aboard Schooner Adventure, will be baking pies and other treats using a woodstove oven and icebox freezer, just like on the traditional schooners today. Several schooners will welcome visitors for tours Saturday afternoon, from 2:30-4:30 p.m.
Day sail schooners will be sailing daily to get you out on Penobscot Bay for a couple of hours, so visit their websites or stop in and make a reservation aboard one of them.
All of the dates and times for CWF activities can be found online at camdenparksandrec.com/camden-windjammer-festival. There is also a fleet page with links to websites and contact information.
Saturday night, join Harbormaster Steve Pixley on the public landing for live music and dancing at the Harbormaster’s Dance. Emmett Lalor and Little Cornbread Catastrophe will provide the tunes and the vibe, while you provide the energy and enthusiasm, said CWF, in a news release.
“Camden Windjammer Festival recognizes the importance of these glorious sailing vessels to Camden’s maritime history, with a special salute to the captains and crew of the town’s day sailors, and the vessels that comprise the Maine Windjammer Association and Maine Windjammer Cruises, among others,” said CWF.
Entrance to the Camden Windjammer Festival is free, with generous financial and in-kind support from numerous businesses, organizations, and individual volunteers, in partnership with the town of Camden, which runs the event. The Fireworks, Talent Show and Crate Race are sponsored by Camden National Bank, Bay View Collection, Maine State Credit Union, Allen Insurance and Financial and Journey’s End Marina, with additional funding provided by Symmetree, Leslie Curtis Designs, French & Brawn Marketplace, Jessie Tobias Design, Carver Hill Gallery, The Smiling Cow, The Leather Bench, Page Gallery, PG Willey, River Ducks Ice Cream and The Camden Comets.
“Be sure to thank and show your support for all of those who contributed to this year’s event,” said CWF.
- Public landing will be closed to all vehicles beginning at 9 a.m. on Thursday, Aug. 31 through midnight Saturday, Sept. 2.
- Lots of vendors on the public landing all day Friday and Saturday,.
- Arrival of the fleet with running commentary by Capt. Jim Sharp (just turned 90 last week!) throughout Friday afternoon; Captain's welcome toast at 5 p.m.
- Windjammer Dinner-for-Two live auction all day Friday; winners announced at 4 p.m.; vessel boarding at 5:15 p.m. (menus available for preview online)
- RC Boat races Friday at noon
- Bay Winds North Wind Ensemble concert in Harbor Park Friday at 6 p.m.
- Schooner Talent Show in Harbor Park Friday at 7:30 p.m.
- Fireworks! Friday at 9 p.m.
- Camden Rotary Pancake Breakfast Saturday, 7:30-10 a.m.
- Camden Fire Windjammer 5K Saturday at 8 a.m.
- Lobster Crate Race REGISTRATION (limited to 40 racers) Saturday, 9-11 a.m.
- West Bay Rotary Chowder Challenge Saturday, noon-2 p.m.
- Lobster Crate Race Saturday at 1 p.m.
- Schooner Open House Saturday, 2:30-4:30 p.m.
- Harbormaster's Dance Party with Emmett Lalor and Little Cornbread Catastrophe Saturday, 8-10 p.m.