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46 Years and Counting…

The weather on the St. Lawrence was perfect; bright, sunny days and seasonable temperatures; ideal conditions for The Antique Boat Museum's 46th Annual Boat Show in Clayton. Held over the July 30th - August 1st weekend, the show attracted over 7000 visitors who came to see the 142 land and water exhibitions of classic wooden boats and marine engines.

This year exhibitors came from 20 states and Canada, several from as far away as Florida and Texas.

The theme of this year's show was a tribute to the boats of Garfield Arthur "Gar" Wood, designer, builder, and boat racer. Gar Wood boats hold a prominent place in the boating history of the 1000 Islands. According to Museum documents, Watertown entrepreneur F.W.Woolworth and his friend Edward Noble, CEO of the Lifesaver Candy Company bought Gar Wood runabouts in 1926.

(Noble's famous Baby Gar "Snail" is part of the ABM collection.)
In 1927, Fitzgerald and Lee, a prominent custom boat building firm in Alexandria Bay became the area's franchised Gar Wood dealer. During their first season Fitzgerald and Lee sold ten new Gar Wood boats to river boaters. In 1928 they delivered five 28' Gar Wood limousines here, including two to the Singer Sewing Machine family on Dark Island. Throughout the Great Depression, Fitzgerald and Lee was Wood's most successful dealership. Wood's last production boat was shipped to Van's Marine, who occupied the former Fitzgerald and Lee shop in Alexandria Bay in 1947.

The origin of the annual boat show in Clayton dates back to the 1960s. At that time a group of local preservationists established the 1000 Islands Museum in Clayton with the hopes of showcasing the area's rich cultural history. The Antique Boat Auxiliary was created as a part of the museum to highlight the area's boating heritage, and it was the Auxiliary that created the first show of antique boats in 1964.

The Antique Boat Museum maintains a close relationship with The Antique and Classic Boat Society (ACBS) and each year features a branch of the Society. This year the Chesapeake Bay branch was honored and ten boats from the group were exhibited. In addition, all 20 of this year's judges are prominent ACBS members from the US and Canada. They all have owned and restored classic wooden boats and have had judging experience at some of the most prestigious antique boat shows in North America.

Judges give over 50 separate awards out each year to boat owners in a variety of categories. Some of these awards are: Antique Boat of the Year, Best Canadian Boat, Best Gar Wood, Best Chris Craft, Best Lyman, Best Preserved Antique Rowing Craft, Sailing Skiff, Classic Utility, Classic Runabout and Classic Launch. There are also awards for Best Preserved Outboard Motor, and even a Best Outboard Land display. Bonus points are given for attractive documentation designed to help viewers learn more about a boat's history.

The Boat Show isn't just about exhibiting and judging classic wooden boats, however. The Museum is open to the public during the Show, displaying its own collection of over 300 boats that the late Joseph Gribbins of Mystic Seaport referred to as "the largest and most impressive collection of inland recreational boats in the world." During the weekend there is a Nautical Marketplace with vendors from all over the us and Canada. There are Speaker's Forums each day, a huge boat auction, activities for children, receptions, dinners, dances featuring the Sam Hopkins Band, and guided tours of George Boldt's spectacular houseboat, La Duchesse.

The task of organizing a boat show is a monumental effort. Preparation for next year's show begins just days after the current show ends. Meetings are held to discuss and process feedback from the many groups involved. Typically, the themes of future shows are generated by Museum staff and are decided on two years in advance.Museum staff will begin sending out information mailings to every boat show participant from the past three years and will pour over the national ACBS directory for members who own theme boats.

Frederick "Fritz" Hager, Museum Trustee and Boat Show Chairman along with Charlotte Brooks, former Museum Events Director and now manager of the Gift Shop, and Judie Peterson, Volunteer Coordinator, bear the brunt of the work that goes into each year's show. The entire ABM staff devotes thousands of hours toward the effort. Each boat show requires a legion of over 100 volunteers to serve as dockers, greeters, security, ride boat captains, docents for tours of La Duchesse, and even dog sitters.

If you missed this year's Boat Show or never have been to a show consider visiting next year, the first weekend in August, when the Antique Boat Museum will celebrate the designs of naval architect John Hacker!

by David Dodge

David Dodge is a retired middle school Science teacher who is fulfilling a lifelong dream of being a River Captain. Like all Antique Boat Museum captains, he holds a USCG Master Mariner credential.  TI Life salutes David and all those who work so hard each year to share their passion for these heritage boats with the River Community.  He was was on duty throughout the Boat Show Weekend and still had time to gather this information for our readers.

Please feel free to leave comments about this article using the form below. Comments are moderated and we do not accept comments that contain links. As per our privacy policy, your email address will not be shared and is inaccessible even to us. For general comments, please email the editor.


Dick Withington
Comment by: Dick Withington ( )
Left at: 10:02 PM Monday, August 23, 2010
Great topic;beautifully done! Enjoyed all your insights and the historical background. Keep it up. Dick
Dave Stutzman
Comment by: Dave Stutzman ( )
Left at: 9:01 PM Friday, September 10, 2010
Nice article! Your contribution of time and talent as a captain are much appreciated. Hope to see you next year. Dave
Bob Kimpton
Comment by: Bob Kimpton ( )
Left at: 8:24 PM Tuesday, August 30, 2011
Dave, you have the best job in the world. Taking people from many areas of the world for boat rides in the beautiful thousand islands. It doesn't get any better than that.