As someone who’s had a few memorable bouts of seasickness I’d rather forget, I can’t explain why I like to attend the Les Cheneaux Antique Wooden Boat Show & Festival of Arts in the Eastern Upper Peninsula village of Hessel. The floating fest is held on the second Saturday of August—the 39th annual is this Saturday, the 13th, and kicks off with a 7 a.m. pancake breakfast. Activities run from 10 a.m.-5 p.m.
I imagine it’s simply because on our handful of visits to the show we’ve always enjoyed a relaxing day by the water in a lovely setting surrounded by the bobbing eye candy, art, music and good food. What a concept.
Les Cheneaux (French for The Channels, and nicknamed “The Snows” by locals), is an archipelago of 36 islands and includes the mainland towns of Hessel and Cedarville. Island cottages are accessible only by boat, and the watercraft used to travel The Snows were often the now prized wooden beauties.
This show, which began in 1978, honors that boating tradition. The gathering now attracts an assortment of about 150 wooden dinghies, rowboats, canoes, sailboats and runabouts of many makes from across the country. The 2016 event features Century Boats, which was founded in Milwaukee, Wisconsin in 1926, and moved across Lake Michigan to Manistee in 1928; the company is now located in Florida.
It’s fun to walk through the Hessel marina and pick out the gleaming, sleek boat we’ll buy with our (some day) Lotto winnings, but I also enjoy the accompanying art show with about 65 quality artists, and the live music. In the past there’s been an area for local authors who chat over book signings, and the lines are long for the whitefish sandwiches.
Arrive Friday evening for the classic car show, whitefish/chicken dinner and to place a bid at the Antique & Classic Boat Corral & Auction.
The whole feeling of the festival is laid back, like the towns of Hessel and Cedarville themselves.
Saturday’s admission is $7 for everyone 12 and older. No pets allowed.
There’s an additional fee for the Arnold Transit Co. Channel Cruise offered at 11:30 a.m., 1 and 2 p.m. Saturday.
Located in area D of the map.
Visitor info clicks:
Story and photos copyright Kath Usitalo.