If the Sultana Education Foundation’s fabled Downrigging Weekend Festival held in Chestertown gets any bigger, they’re going to need a month to fit it all in. As it is, though, they’ll have to squeeze it into three days, October 27 through 29.
Since its beginnings 16 years ago, when Chestertown’s own schooner Sultana rendezvoused with the Pride of Baltimore II, Downrigging Weekend has blossomed into an event that transcends tastes and interests of all kinds. And practically all of it is still free.
Besides becoming the largest annual gathering of Tall Ships in the Mid-Atlantic region, Downrigging offers a smorgasbord of events and activities ranging from book talks, lectures and art exhibits to a parade of Ferrari automobiles and a half marathon.
Not counting four opportunities to sail (tickets start at $25) on one of eight participating Tall Ships, festival goers can choose from among more than 50 things to do or look at, including 11 live music performances, two days of Dock Dog® competitions and an exhibition of model boats and ships.
New events at Downrigging 2017 include:
Friday night’s parade of lighted boats. A first for this area, this parade features illuminated boats on trailers, parading down High Street, Chestertown’s main drag. Three winners divide $1,000 in cash prizes. Be there at 6:45 p.m.
Friday night’s appearance by Captain Jonathan Boulware, executive director of the South Street Seaport Museum in New York City. Speaking at 8 p.m. at the Garfield Center, Jonathan will provide an entertaining, historical tour through the history of the port of New York, the Museum that aims to interpret that history and an overview of the recent, multiple-award-winning restoration of the mighty 1885 iron sailing ship Wavertree.
Saturday morning’s Ferrari parade. By coincidence, the Ferrari Club of America is meeting nearby over the weekend and agreed to add a splash of Italian auto pizzazz to this year’s gathering of wooden vessels. The cars appear on High Street immediately following the town’s Halloween parade, which starts at 11 a.m.
Saturday evening’s recounting of the building of the schooner Sultana by acclaimed watercolorist Marc Castelli, who followed the project for three years, pen in hand and sketchbook at the ready. The program concludes with the first public release of Marc’s book Building Sultana, which includes more than 200 pen and ink drawings along with his notes and stories. The program begins at 6 p.m. in Sultana’s Holt Education Center, at 200 South Cross Street.
“Downrigging Weekend is bigger this year, that’s true,” said Drew McMullen, President of the Sultana Education Foundation, “and while we have nifty things like the Dock Dogs and Ferraris, the focus is still on our core missions – education and stewardship. It’s critical that all of us – and particularly the next generation – build a relationship with the Chesapeake Bay and learn what we can do to preserve and restore it. Downrigging Weekend will get more than 1,000 people out on the Chesapeake, an important first step in creating new stewards for the Bay.
For a full schedule of events, visit www.sultanaeducation.org.