Maritime Fest focuses on Tacoma’s boating community, art that boats inspire

This year’s Maritime Fest doesn’t come with extra frills like train rides and tall ships. Instead, the 22-year-old waterfront festival — moved from August to September, and expecting about 10,000 attendees — is focusing on the beauty and delight of boats, bringing in both the boating community and local artists to help celebrate Tacoma’s working waterfront.

“Last year I was trying to hone in on the purely maritime theme,” yacht broker Sue Schaeffer, who is in her second year directing the festival, said. “It wasn’t easy rooting out the nonmaritime things, and there weren’t as many features as usual, but it was a richer experience. This year I’m focusing on the boating trades and the arts.”

The trades come into it with demonstration boats, such as trawlers and fishing boats; vessels MV El Primero, Charles Curtis, Plover and Thea Bell; plus the usual police, fire and tug boats. Most boats will be open for boarding. There also will be informational booths staffed by boating clubs.

But the art is something new. Thanks to a $2,000 grant from the city of Tacoma, Schaeffer was able to ask Tacoma artist Lynn Di Nino to organize a boat-themed exhibit by regional artists. “Boat” opened with an artist reception Thursday evening and continues Saturday and Sunday at the festival inside the recently renovated Foss Waterway Seaport building.

Each of the 10 sculptures in the show had to be in the shape of a boat, 2-3 feet long and made of recycled materials, Di Nino said.

“I thought that it would be fun to show the beautiful shape of boats in different materials,” she said.

The sculptures didn’t have to float or be waterproof — a good thing, as it opens up the exhibit to some eclectic materials.

Ric Hall created his boat out of a dismantled microwave. Chris Wooten made a Viking ship out of telephone wire. And Holly Senn’s delicate, leaf-like boat is made, like everything the artist does, out of reworked pages from cast-off library books. There’s also a papier-mache dragon boat. All of the sculptures will be for sale.

The professional art show is complemented by two art installations involving youngsters. The Youth Found Art show and contest features maritime-theme art made from found objects by children at the Multicultural Child and Family Hope Center and the local Boys & Girls Clubs. And outside the Seaport building will be a shipping container on which any child at the festival can help paint a mural of Tacoma’s boating history. The mural was designed by festival founder Clare Petrich and artist Kate Cendejas, who will lead the painting on both days of the festival.

Farther down Dock Street, a new Nick Goettling mural commissioned by the city of Tacoma to celebrate Tacoma’s waterfront history will be dedicated at 3 p.m. Saturday. The mural covers the stormwater collection unit underneath the Murray Morgan bridge and pays homage to Thea Foss, Murray Morgan and waterfront laborers in stylized aqua and gold.

You also can make your own printed T-shirt at a festival booth inspired by a similar one at the Downtown Block Party. This year’s design is a tall ship with “I like big boats and I cannot lie” emblazoned on the sails, but there also are three other older festival designs to choose from. Visitors can bring their own shirt ($5) or buy a new ($10) or Goodwill-supplied one ($7) at the festival.

Meanwhile, the rest of Maritime Fest will offer similar activities to last year, including a Kids Zone with giant balls for playing in, a catch-and-release fish tank, a remote-control boat pond, toy boat making, Lego zone, an inflatable sea serpent, and art activities.

“I want kids to get excited about every aspect of the water,” Schaeffer said.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration will give free boat tours of Tacoma’s marine watershed at 11 a.m., and 1 and 3 p.m. Sunday, while the Port of Tacoma will offer free tours of the port Sunday at 10 and 11:30 a.m., and 1, 2:30 and 4 p.m.

The Sea Scouts will offer free sailboat rides during the festival, and the SS Odyssey offers $25 sailings at 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. Saturday and noon Sunday.

One of the highlights of the festival happens Saturday: the Quick and Dirty Boat Building competition, where teams compete over six hours to build a floating vessel with materials, such as plywood and planks, handed out at the start of the competition. All boats will be displayed during a parade at 4 p.m. and compete in a final water race at 4:30 p.m.

Performers in the Rock the Dock beer garden during the afternoons include Two Trees Steel Drums, Champagne Sunday, She’s Not Dead, the Seaweed Sisters, Mr. Blackwatch, and Steve and Kristi Nebel.