After 25 Years!
The Presque Isle Wooden Boat Show has always been the 3rd Saturday in June since it was started in 1993. Show founders, Bob Swearingen and Dave Kowalski Sr. felt that with the short northern Michigan Summers that people were tired of the long winter and would want to get out of the house if something was going on locally. What a good choice this was and now, after 25 very successful years, it is already the Show’s Silver Anniversary!
Good Leadership and Good Planning through the years and now with Bob Van Dusen at the Helm the show should now be on its way to a bright and interesting future. Rob Van Schoten, who is also the Manager of the Portage Restaurant where this show is annually held, has kept an eye for 25 years on the finances of the show, that incidentally has never charged an entrance fee to anyone, oversees things so that it remains financially stable. Of course he never turns down any donations either! The show started out with just antique and classic wooden boats that came mostly from the locals in Presque Isle and Alpena Counties. Now there are also classic fiberglass and aluminum boats at the show; along with 2 light houses for climbing, outdoor food being served, an attendance of motorcycles and bike riders, Corvettes, Mustangs, and now Model “T’s”. What a popular event this has become and what a nice time to be out in Michigan’s Great Outdoors! The only thing missing from this early show are wooden sailing vessels and cruisers 30’ and over. Apparently they can’t get moving this early in the year but we want them to know that Presque Isle Harbor is open in June and has a spot with water and electric available to them. Maybe they might bring home a trophy too!
Again there were always many early wooden vessels built in the area. Early commercial fishing was done on wooden sailing vessels and later on motorized vessels such as the 60’ Katherine V now at the Besser Museum in Alpena. Smaller boats manufactured in this area included those done by the Kaufman Family of Presque Isle and LaCross family of Alpena. The Vogelheim Lumber Company of Rogers City handled boat and trailer kits manufactured by Chris Craft as Chris Craft moved into more pleasure boats. Chris Craft had started out with making Duck Boats for hunters, then to “PT” boats for the military, and then into recreational family boating.
Are wooden boats on the come back? Many old wooden boats keep popping out of old barns and garages all over the State. See the article in our program on the “Fever”, one of only 35 “Hallets” ever built and the only one know to be in existent. The Mertaugh’s , Chris Craft’s first retail dealer, continue to work with boat restorations in the Les Cheneaux Island area. In 2005 The Great Lakes Boat Building School was started in Cedarville and will do a seminar for our show this year. Russ Arrand, who has been to every one of our 25 shows, is the owner of Cadillac Boat Shop, LLC and one of many Michigan wooden boat restoration shops located up and down the shores of Lake Huron and Lake Michigan.
Michigan continues to license more boats every year than most states. With old wooden boats being redone with stringers and planking laminated in epoxy products and even new wooden boats are being made with almost completely encased in epoxy’s, outdoor enthusiasts will be able be able to buy fiberglass, aluminum or wooden boats and mixtures of each in the years ahead. However this Presque Isle Show has always preached that NO Boat rides better than a wooden boat and that will never change.