By Lindsey Bonte, Lakeside Marketing Intern

Lakeside’s waterfront will transform into an outdoor showroom of classic wooden boats for the 19th Annual Lakeside Wooden Boat Show from noon-4 p.m. Sunday, July 17.

Nineteen years ago, three members of the Lakeside Wooden Boat Society (LWBS) decided to host a boat show with only three boats. The event has grown into one of Lake Erie’s largest wooden boat exhibits.

Mame Drackett, Director of the Lakeside Wooden Boat Show, works tirelessly to make sure the Boat Show accurately represents the passion of the LWBS, as well as creates a unique, enjoyable atmosphere for boat owners and viewers alike.

The mission of LWBS was inspired by the role of wooden boats in Lakeside Chautauqua’s history, the art and beauty of wooden boat construction and the passion of Lakeside Chautauqua wooden boat owners. Today, the development and health of the lakefront are also important parts of their mission.

During the boat show, guests can learn about the world of wooden boatbuilding from boat owners, restoration experts and boat enthusiasts alike. Hearing the unique stories behind the making of each vessel helps viewers gain a deeper understanding and appreciation for boatbuilding and the many hours of preservation it takes to keep them afloat and looking new.

The atmosphere of the Wooden Boat Show draws large crowds, making it one of Lakeside’s most popular weekends after the Fourth of July.

“There is a cookout on the Hotel Lakeside lawn, so you smell the wonderful chicken and hamburgers grilling,” Drackett said. “Wally & The Beavs is playing 50s and 60s songs at the Pavilion. People line up their lawn chairs to sit and enjoy food, music, boats and artists.”

Most of the biggest exhibitors come from Ohio, Indiana and Michigan with a few from Illinois. But, some exhibitors have traveled as far as Hawaii. Though the boat show is one afternoon, preparation for the event takes months. Letters are sent out in February announcing the show to exhibitors. From there, emails and phone calls help create the lineup of boats with more and more additions closer to the show.

“Most of the calls come in the two weeks before the show,” Drackett said.

To keep things running smoothly, Drackett sends a detailed arrival process email to each boat owner, with various details based on if they are being shown on land or in the water. She works extremely close with Pat Castanaras, who works at the Gates to coordinate details and logistics. Castanaras is instrumental in helping the boats placed on land arrive through the West Second Street gate. Castanaras’ list at the gates is methodically planned so they are grouped in the proper categories to make the process easier when the boats are being placed. For example, boats from the 50s and the 60s are categorized as classic motorboats, and boats made before 1942 are considered historic. There are also antique, modern and post-modern groupings.

Tom Ramsdell, dock master of the Lakeside Wooden Boat Show, is essential in helping place the boats along the dock. Ramsdell and Lakeside’s Waterfront Crew start prepping for the boat arrivals on Saturday night, making sure there are poles in the water that tie the boats to keep them safe.

As the boats arrive on Sunday via water, the Waterfront Crew will meet them and escort boats to their proper placings. These “Valet Dockers” make the experience even better for the exhibitors. As boats are being placed, the safety of the crew and vessels are also extremely important, so the engines are made sure to be turned off.

“Once all the boats are docked, and everyone’s on the lawn, then we all breathe a sigh of relief and are ready to enjoy the show,” Drackett said.

The Wooden Boat Show takes a lot of work to make happen. In fact, preparation for the next Wooden Boat Show starts the same day it ends.

“My work starts for the next show the day of the boat show because we’re already looking at the poster for next year,” Drackett said. “We find all the paintings of the wooden boats from the talented plein air artists, and then we decide which captures the essence of the show for next year’s poster.”

Though it is a lot of work leading up to the big day, Drackett says, “It’s been a volunteer job for 19 years, and I can honestly say I love doing this. It’s a labor of love that involves many hearts and hands to pull off – including preparation from multiple Lakeside departments, like Events, Gates, Shuttles, Waterfront, Marketing and more, as well as the work of gracious volunteers on the day of the show.”

Volunteers help make the Boat Show run smoothly. The LWBS is still in need of volunteers to help with the Lyman Historical Museum as well as helping with other needs on the day of the Wooden Boat Show. To volunteer please contact Mame Drackett at mame@drackett.cc or 239-776-6205.