By Aubrey Hastings
Student Life Editor
Chestertown is considered to be one of America’s best preserved historic seaports, and that is precisely why the community is home to the annual “Tall Ship and Wooden Boat Festival” known as Downrigging Weekend. The harbors of Chestertown were overflowing the weekend of Oct. 27-30 with ships, schooners, skipjacks, buyboats, and wooden boats of all shapes and sizes for the eleventh annual Downrigging Weekend . The ships made their way to the Chester River to celebrate the end of the sailing season.
The event featuring renowned maritime authors and journalists, world class musicians, and a fleet of Tall Ships is an extension of Sultana Projects. The town of Chestertown has become known as home to the Schooner Sultana, a reproduction of the British Navy ship the “HMS Sultana.” Over 3,000 students participated in the community-led effort to build the replica, with groups of volunteers logging over 150,000 hours of time building. The Schooner Sultana was launched in March 2011 with its base in Chestertown and now hosts various educational and leisure activities.
The kick-off party was held Oct. 28 under the Downrigging pavilion at the end of High Street downtown. The streets were overwhelmed with people as local community members, WC students, and many tourists came to see the ships and celebrate a Chestertown tradition. At dusk, the entire Downrigging fleet was illuminated and fireworks were able to be spotted streets away as they were set off in Wilmer Park.
Among the authors who lectured during the weekend were New York Times Best-Selling author Dava Sobel and Ryan Lizza, Washington correspondent for The New Yorker. Public sailing was a highlight of the weekend, as well as the Wooden Boat Show and Family Day on the Waterfront. There were 44 vessels registered for exhibition in the boat show. The event did see some weary weather over the weekend, but all events that could continue on as planned did so, including the Ship Tours and children in costume were encouraged to trick-or-treat onboard as they toured the vessels.
The weekend patrons and event’s sponsors included, but are not limited to: the Kent County Arts Council Inc, Washington College Chemistry Department, WC Center for Environment and Society, and the C.V. Starr Center for the Study of the American Experience. There were also countless individual sponsors who support this event and bring it to fruition every year and were gratefully acknowledged by Sultana Projects in the event brochure.
Downrigging Weekend truly epitomizes fall in Chestertown. If you missed the event this year, be sure to look for its arrival next fall and head downtown to take part in the festivities of this beloved and unique Chestertown tradition.