Studying the Classics

The pristine Wilma C. reflects the morning sun on Skaneateles Lake.

Everyone loves a great mahogany boat! When 70 to 80 of these varnished beauties are assembled together in one of the best vintage boat shows in the northeast, they really command attention. Over the weekend of July 27 to 29, Skaneateles hosts its 34th annual Antique and Classic Boat Show in the heart of the village in Clift Park and along the village pier. The show attracts some of the most impressive wooden boats from across the U.S. and Canada.

As an extra special attraction, this year’s show will highlight two vintage boats seen in the 1981 movie “On Golden Pond,” starring Henry Fonda and Katharine Hepburn. This is the only appearance in the northeast the two boats, Thayer IV and Mariah, will be making this year. Seth and Renee Katz of Hopatcong, New Jersey have meticulously restored them, and Finger Lakes Antique and Classic Boat Society members Ric and Wendy Fetridge will complement the showcase, dressed as Fonda and Hepburn.

The show begins on Friday afternoon at 3 p.m. with a media preview offered to some 25 media outlets in the Syracuse area, followed by a community band concert in the Park at 7:30. Before the concert, a southern-style barbecue is available at the Sherwood Inn’s banquet tent opposite Clift Park at a nominal cost and offers the opportunity to meet and talk with the exhibitors. Area restaurants also offer a variety of menus and settings.

On Saturday, the show opens to the public at 8 a.m., but exhibitors start getting their boats ready early for judging in one or more of 35 categories. Judging is performed by a select group of vintage boat experts who go over literally every detail of each boat or motor being judged. They spend nearly the entire day identifying the boats and engines competing for the several awards.

The Syracuse Model Boat Club also joins the festivities on Saturday morning, and at 10 a.m., youngsters get their chance to judge boats. Hagerty Marine Insurance of Traverse City, Michigan sponsors a program whereby young people are introduced a bit more closely to the world of wooden boats. To participate, would-be Junior Judges need to sign-up at the registration tent in Clift Park well before the 10 a.m. start time.

Also on Saturday morning, children visiting the show are invited to paint their own wooden boat – 9-inch models of a wooden runabout. Parents have been known to lend a hand turning out some very colorful works of art!

At noon on Saturday, a Dixieland band heightens the festive atmosphere by kicking off three hours of live music. At 3 p.m. there is a boat parade in which boats pass close-by spectators lined along the sea wall in the park. The remainder of the day is devoted to cruising and seeing the sights around Skaneateles Lake. On Saturday evening, a banquet is followed by the handing out of awards.

On Sunday, the show opens at 8 a.m., followed by a photoshoot aboard Mid-Lakes Navigation’s tour boat, the Judge Ben Wiles, docked right at the sea wall in Clift Park. Weather permitting, this one-hour cruise ($10 for adults and $5 for children under 13 accompanied by an adult) departs at 10 a.m. and offers opportunities for excellent shots of boats passing close aboard while at speed.

Live music in the park once again begins at noon and continues until the People’s Choice Award is given out at 2:30. The winner of this coveted award is determined solely by votes cast by visitors over the course of the weekend. The show concludes at 3 p.m.

Whether you spend a day or just part of a day at the Skaneateles Boat Show, you’re sure to find it an interesting and unusual experience that draws you into the world of elegant wooden boats. An invitation to participate is available online at

The Boat Show is organized by the Skaneateles Area Chamber of Commerce Foundation ( or 315-685-0552) and the Finger Lakes Chapter of the Antique and Classic Boat Society, an international organization dedicated to the preservation, restoration and enjoyment of vintage watercraft. M&T Bank is again the official sponsor, and the show is supported further by several other area businesses. Boat show events and activities (except meals and the photo-shoot) are free, and the venue is handicapped-accessible.


Other activities during boat show weekend

• Skaneateles Farmers’ Market: local growers offering fruits, vegetables, flowers, cheese, eggs, bread, free range chicken, wine, baked goods, meats, herbs, etc. Thursday (3:30 to 6:30 p.m.) and Saturday (10 a.m. to 1 p.m.) at Austin Park Pavilion upper parking lot (Jordan Street).

• John D. Barrow Art Gallery: “A Finger Lakes Treasure” at 49 E. Genesee Street. Beautiful portraits and “second generation” Hudson River School landscapes. Open Friday from 1 to 4 p.m. and Saturday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Donations accepted.

• Skaneateles Historical Society Museum at the Village Creamery: 28 Hannum Street. Lightning Sailboat # 1 and other Skaneateles-built wooden boats on display. Museum and gift shop open 1 to 4 p.m. Friday, Saturday and Sunday. One block from Clift Park. Donations accepted.

• Historic Village Tours: originating at the gazebo in Clift Park. One-hour tours of Skaneateles via Laker Limo (small bus), ending at the Village Creamery for refreshments. 11 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. departures, Saturday and Sunday. $10 per person (proceeds benefiting the Skaneateles Historical Society Museum).

• Mid-Lakes Navigation: cruise scenic Skaneateles Lake for dinner, lunch, brunch, sightseeing and much more. Visit for complete schedule and fares. Call 315-685-8500 for info and reservations.

• 8th Annual Rhythm & Blues B.B.Q.; west lawn of the Sherwood Inn on Sunday right after the show. Live music, delicious food and cold beverages. No charge for admission.

by Dick Sherwood

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