By Barb Pert Templeton
Plans for Boat Week are in full swing in Port Huron with organizers eager to welcome everyone back to town to enjoy shopping, dining, live music, a parade, fireworks and plenty of family fun.
City of Port Huron DDA Director Cynthia Cutright, said Boat Week and the Blue Water Festival are actually the same thing and since most recognize the annual event as Boat Week organizers are advertising it as such this year. The festivities are a send-off for the annual Port Huron to Mackinaw Island Boat Race set for Sunday, July 24
Cutright said she’s not sure when festival week was launched in the city but it was definitely decades ago and has had some pauses, starts and stops over the years. She said it’s nice to have it back on the calendar this year after the pandemic tabled it in 2020.
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Still, the fact that just two months ago state and federal guidelines for the pandemic were still up in the air this year’s event will be scaled back a bit simply because there wasn’t time to plan a full schedule.
There will not be a carnival midway downtown and there are fewer entertainment stages but other than that the city’s anxious to see crowds return to their historic downtown.
Parade a century old tradition
Things will kick off on Wednesday night, July 21, with a parade at 6:30 sponsored by the Port Huron Rotary. The parade is literally a 101-year tradition for the Rotary and since they had to cancel last year’s event, they moved the 100th year theme, Decades, to this year’s parade.
“We want to celebrate our longevity of service to the community,” past Rotary Club President Keely Baribeau said. “The parade is all volunteers and this parade is the best attended event in the community here each year.”
As a variety of parade units, between 55 and 65 this year, line up across from Sanborn Park off Main Street thousands of spectators line the sidewalks to watch.
Floats boasting the theme, marching bands from local high schools, some Big Heads from The Parade Company in Detroit and various other units travel along the parade route to south Main Street near the turn at the local YMCA.
Dozens of volunteers from the Port Huron Rotary plus other nearby clubs line the street in bright yellow t-shirts directing traffic and keeping things moving forward during the parade.
Baribeau said there are still a few spots open for this year’s parade and interested applicants should visit paradeday.net.
Fun for everyone
Festivities will continue on Thursday and Friday at 4 p.m. when vendors, food trucks and a concert series, featuring local bands first and a main act at 8 p.m. come to town.
In fact, the city and local radio stations 92.7 The Hills and 107 Q Country have teamed up to present a “Boats and Boots” concert series that will welcome local bands to the west Quay Street parking lot at 5 p.m. on both Thursday and Friday.
Country artist Joe Nichols will take the stage on Thursday at 6 p.m. and tickets are $30. Then on Friday Drake White, also a country artist, will perform also at 6 p.m. with a ticket price of $20.
Cutright said there will be family activities offered downtown including on-going skits from the local theater company on a smaller stage off Huron Avenue. She said popular face painting artist Ms. Melissa will also be in town to give kids in the crowd a fresh look.
For adults who enjoy an adult beverage while strolling downtown, Port Huron had a special social district approved by the Michigan Liquor Control Commission last year. It means strolling and drinking are allowed as long as patrons have a special social district stickered cup, available at seven local establishments.
“We have security in place to keep the social distance drinks out of the concert area,” Cutright said. “And we’ve had this up and running for a year now and have not had one single issue with it.”
Once the festivities in town have concluded on Friday, Cutright said the city invites everyone to come back on Saturday morning to enjoy the “Parade of Boats” which is a tradition of “seeing the sailors off” on their way in the annual Port Huron to Mackinaw Island Boat Race. The race is set for Sunday, July 24 when over 100 sail boats will race through lower Lake Huron north of the Blue Water Bridge to the Round Island Channel off Mackinaw Island.
A few highlights on the Boat Week schedule include:
- Operation Transformation, a local faith-based non-profit organization, is sponsoring free family activities on Thursday night July 22nd from 5:00 to 9:00 p.m. Events will take place on the lawn just North East of the 10th St. Bridge. The activities will include: Pony rides, petting zoo, live music, temporary tattoos, carnival games, crafts and giveaways.
- Fireworks will be presented Thursday, July 22 at dusk at Vantage Point.
- Concerts at the West Quay Parking Lot on both Thursday and Friday beginning at 5 p.m.
- Vendor booths along Huron Avenue from 4 to 9 p.m. on Thursday and Friday.
- Mannequins Making a Difference on Thursday and Friday from 6 to 10 p.m. at the base of the Military Street Bridge sponsored by Salon Pizazz
For more information visit thebluewaterfest.com.