Maritime Gloucester will bring the glory of sailing the open seas during the Age of Sail to shore on Saturday for its Maritime Heritage Day, an annual event tied in with the Gloucester Schooner Festival.
The free, daylong event — which runs from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. — offers visitors an opportunity to step aboard a schooner and feel the history of these sailing vessels. The public will also have the chance to watch America’s oldest marine railway in action, which also learning about traditional boat building and the biology of the region’s oceans.
“Both locals and visitors can come down with their families, and it’s free and it’s meaningful,” festival chairwoman Daisy Nell Collinson said. “It’s one of those passive educational things. You are learning and absorbing things without making it feel like a lesson.”
This year, the festival venue is expanding and will include both Maritime Gloucester’s home base on Harbor Loop and the temporary schooner docks about a block away on Rogers Street. The dirt lot known as I4C2, next to The Gloucester House restaurant, will be dedicated to the festivities for the day.
The additional space will allow more boats to be open for deck tours, with greater opportunity for the public to experience them.
“Maritime Heritage Day is one of my favorite things about Gloucester Schooner Festival,” said Michael De Koster, executive director of Maritime Gloucester. “Not everyone wants to get out on the water, but everyone can have a great day of maritime fun at Maritime Gloucester and at the new schooner docks at I4C2. So many great community organizations get together to show the best of Gloucester and make it a family-friendly day.”
To interest all ages, organizers have pulled together a variety of local organizations and exhibitors, each with their own attraction or activity. Participants include Gloucester 400, Cape Ann Art Haven, Cape Ann Museum, Cape Ann Vernal Pond, Essex Shipbuilding Museum, Great Salt Marsh Project, Lowell’s Boat Shop, Ocean Alliance, North Shore Sea Scouts Ship 5, Seaside Sustainability, Schooner Adventure, Schooner Roseway and Schooner Ernestina-Morrissey Association.
OLLIE — Ocean Learning Lab and Immersive Experiences — will be at the I4C2 lot, along with other exhibitors, so those waiting to board schooners can find out more about the maritime environment while having some fun.
There also will be artisans displaying their wares and food vendors, including The Eclectic Clam, Gig Rower Hot Dog and Veggie Burger Stand, and Kim Gregory Pure Pastry, serving up their specialties.
“I think the takeaway for participants is that this is a land-based event featuring a lot of attractions,” Collinson said. “It gets people involved in the Schooner Fest without going out on a boat if they don’t want to go out on a boat.
“And because of the working waterfront location, it makes this a unique happening,” she said. “It’s unique because the city is so intricately connected to the schooner, which is connected to our history, so in the age of cultural tourism, it all makes great sense.”
Collinson assures that everyone can get something out of the festival.
“It’s evocative to many visitors, and it touches people to see these boats in the harbor,” she said. “It’s a game-changer to be able to have that access for people.
“Over the years, we’ve tried to make it an event from the waterfront to Main Street and beyond,” she said. “In this fast-paced world, there is still a lot of interest. This is unique to us in Gloucester. New Bedford has whales and Salem has witches — and we have schooners.”