Dressed for the Occasion Up Front
By Ashley DesMarteau
For sailing and motor vessels, few things are more challenging than entering an unfamiliar harbor, not knowing the waters or threats they pose. Mariners who guide ships through congested or dangerous waters such as harbors and river mouths are pilots. Pilotage is as old as sea travel and is one of the most important jobs in maritime safety, the ultimate responsibility of bringing a vessel safely to her destination.
For the 24th Annual Wooden Boat Show, the featured work could not be more fitting. “Dressed for the Occasion” painted by Susan Tiller, depicts a 1905 pilot boat adorned with nautical flags, ready for the celebration to begin. When Tiller was selected as the featured artist, her husband Hank provided some inspiration by suggesting she paint a pilot boat. And now her pilot boat will lead the way and help steer Georgetown into calmer waters, giving everyone something to celebrate after some of the longest weeks in her historic history.
The Wooden Boat Show has grown into more than just a hometown favorite with record numbers of nearly 15,000 people attending last year. Through a competitive nomination process, the Southeast Tourism Society recognized the Wooden Boat Show as one of the Top 20 Events in the region.
“It's our largest and most important fundraiser” said Sally Swineford of the Wooden Boat Show, and “it covers operating costs for the South Carolina Maritime Museum.”
Proceeds from the Wooden Boat Show allowed the group to open the South Carolina Maritime Museum early in 2012, so when the fire threatened the museum last month it looked as if the 20 years of effort would be lost along with the other historic buildings on Front Street. They were so fortunate and SCMM Board Member Johnny Weaver credits the efforts of the Georgetown Fire Department for going into the building and saving the historic artifacts and for saving the building itself.
The museum has become a beacon to new residents like Susan Davis who visited there before she and her husband had even purchased their home in the area — and now less than one year into living here, she has taken on a volunteer role with the Wooden Boat Show. The Museum not only celebrates the rich maritime history of the area, but is fostering that appreciation throughout the region and sharing it with younger generations. This summer more than 80 students became sailors though the inaugural summer sailing camp hosted by the SCMM. Some of those sailors will be participating in the Wooden Boat Show for the first time, competing in a regatta throughout the morning.
Volunteer and community support have been integral to the dreams and efforts of establishing the museum. “In the early days we had 10 to 12 sponsors who helped support the Wooden Boat Challenge” says Swineford. But as the event grew so too did the financial needs to run it, so Wooden Boat Show visionaries— Swineford along with Sid Hood, Susan Sanders and Len Anderson — developed a creative way for people to get involved. “When we came up with the Goat Island Yacht Club idea, it was to have a fun way for people to feel like they belonged to something.” She credits Len Anderson for coming up with the logo. The glorified goat “even has a trademark. People love that goat. They love it on hats, on t-shirts, they just can't get enough,” says Swineford.
Goats are good for business. Last year a collection of wonderfully whimsical artwork that integrated goats was a crowd favorite at the Goat Island Yacht Club party. From the Mona Lisa to American Gothic, Stephen Psathas local artist, interior designer and event planner, nailed it. And Stephen has been coming up with some pieces for this year as well as working on the event. Melissa Small with the SCMM calls Psathas “the decorating visionary for the Goat Island Yacht Club.”
Georgetown's finest opti pram builders have been busy painting too — no fancy watercolors or pastels — just Tiger orange and Gamecock garnet. These prams are guaranteed to surpass expectations — crafted to perfection and boasting the ultimate seal of approval — signatures from each of the university coaches. I'm betting this head-to-head auction showdown will rival anything we'll see on the field in November.
Contributions to both the live and silent auctions keep coming in and they're better than ever. Charters for helicopter and airboat rides and a romantic sunset cruise were all donated by locals. SCMM neighbors, the Rice Paddy, have planned an elegant chefs dinner featuring drinks and a five-course meal that will be up for bid. Maritime friends up in Murrells Inlet at Grahams Landing are providing an oyster roast for 16-20. Charleston-based charter boat, the Osprey is offering a unique opportunity for viewing the Wooden Boat Challenge — come aboard with 20 of your friends and enjoy cocktails, hors d'oeuvres, a harbor cruise and then a bird's eye view of the race — going to the highest bidder!
“If we didn't have this great support from donors — well I just can't imagine how we'd pull it all off. We couldn't — they mean everything to this event and to us,“ said Goat Island Yacht Club event coordinator Lisa Collins.
Seven area restaurants and caterers will be featured at the event. Georgetown favorites — Big Tuna, Ball & Que, Delectable Occasions, Lands End and the Rice Paddy will be serving up their specialties — and downtown newbie, Atlantic House is making their much-anticipated debut.
Support is coming from up the Neck too from businesses like Get Carried Away. Owner Brian Henry said he and his wife Sassy are happy to be part of the Goat Island Yacht Club party this year. “We believe that not just Pawleys Island, but the whole county has contributed to the success of Palmetto Cheese and we feel indebted. Georgetown has such a rich history and so much potential, we want to do what we can to help,” said Henry.
The Upstate, the Midlands and the Lowcountry have all been amazing, rallying to support Georgetown and her efforts to heal and move forward. The local community has been digging deep, generously supporting Front Street residents and business owners whose livelihood was devastated due to fire, so the strong showing from outside the community is deeply appreciated.
This year the 24th Annual Wooden Boat Show is a time for everyone to come together to celebrate Georgetown's rich maritime history, but also her future and how important it is to all of us. So look no further than Susan Tiller's pilot boat to get to your destination safely on Saturday, October 19th for the 24th annual Wooden Boat Show.
Make it your business to keep it local.
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