MEREDITH — As many as 80 classic boats will be on display at the Meredith Town Docks Saturday for the 41st annual New England Antique and Classic Boat Show, an event which draws hundreds of spectators from all over the Northeast and features classic wooden boats from earlier eras, including Chris Crafts, Garwoods, Hackercraft and Century.
The show has its roots in the Roaring Twenties and those years in which pleasure boating really started to come of age. There were literally hundreds of boats that came to Lake Winnipesaukee and in the 1930s organized racing among the high-powered runabouts on the lake became big events, attracting national news media and thousands of spectators. Speedboat rides were big business by the late forties, and it was during that time many of those attending the show experienced the thrill of their first ride in one of these mahogany beauties. The Miss Winnipesaukee speedboats, which made daily trips out of Irwin's Winnipesaukee Gardens were some of the 20's vintage craft offering "thrill rides" on the lake.
The Winnipesaukee Antique and Classic Boat Show began because Jim Irwin of Irwin Winnipesaukee Gardens and Irwin Marine and Vince Callahan, owner of Channel Marine at the Weirs, business competitors and friends for years, attended the Clayton New York Antique Boat Show in 1973. It was clear to them that the preservation of old boats was an exciting thing that could best be achieved through a boat show. They started planning that summer and fall and the result was the first annual national Northeastern Antique and Classic Boat Show in 1974.
Jim Irwin wrote of that first show: ''Under sunny skies on beautiful lake Winnipesaukee, nestled at the Foot of the New Hampshire White Mountains, the dream of two Local boat dealers came true. The Show displayed over 50 power boats,creating all the color and nostalgia of yesteryear. Vince Callahan and I put together an "in the water" show that delighted thousands of spectators and old boat lovers. Working directly with city officials, the public docks at the Weirs became the stage for a wide variety of beautiful wooden boat masterpieces.''
In 1976 the New England Chapter of the Antique and Classic Boat Society was formed as a result of gathering at the Boston Boat Show when a group of wooden boat enthusiasts gathered in admiration around a couple of show winning woodies: Ted Larter's "Scotty Too" Goldcup Racer and Ray Hawe's prized possession, 18' Garwood "Norma Jean"
In the years following the formation of the chapter, the boat show became its major event, with Jim and Vince providing valued direction and support. The show was a competitive one from the beginning, with numerous classes, a panel of judges, and sometime had special featured race boat events. Consequently it developed a prestigious reputation. Only one year in its history, 1980, did it try a new approach—no judging.
Despite dire predictions of failure without judging and awards, 85 boats registered and the quality was as good as ever. A truly successful event, proving that giving antique boat owners a chance to shine up their prize and show it to 10,000 people will get them every time.
In 2003 the show moved to the public docks at Meredith and has continued to be one of the premiere classic boat shows in the entire country.
Last year some 80 boats and about two dozen antique and classic cars gathered at the Meredith docks oft the show, which was the first year for Scott Robinson as boat show chairman.
''It is my second year as show chair, and as my pal, Don Minor said, 'another 20 years and you will get it right' Robinson wrote in a message to the club membership on the organization's website.
He noted that the show does not have a Marque Class this year and urges all those who own different-from-wood boats to attend. "Please bring your classic fiberglass, metal, birch bark, and any other material that your boat was constructed with to the show. Remember, there is a non-wood classic boat class among the judging criteria...class 'P'," notes Robinson.
The schedule for this year's show calls for boats to dock between 7 a.m. and 9 a.m. with the show itself running from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. There will be a meet and greet for participants at 6 p.m. at Giuseppe's Pizzeria and Ristorante at 6 p.m. On Sunday from 10 a.m. to noon there will be brunch and awards ceremony at the Chase House Restaurant across from the Town Docks.
The New England Chapter hosts numerous other events during the course of the year, both for members and for the public. Activities usually begin in early June with a lakeside picnic and swap meet. Since 1994 it has sponsored a boat show on Long Lake in Naples Maine, which includes dinner/dancing on the Songa River Queen and an island cookout after the show for participants and guest. And each fall starting in 1995 it has sponsored the Wolfeboro Antique and Classic Boat and Car Rendezvous, which has become a very popular event, especially for the "leaf peepers." Held against a backdrop of brilliant fall foliage and crisp air, it is New England at it best.
Boat show 1:
Triple cockpit runabouts with gleaming surfaces are among the many varieties of wooden boats which will take part in the 41st annual New England Classic and Antique Boat Show at the Meredith Town Docks Saturday. (Roger Amsden photo for the Laconia Daily Sun)
Boat show 2:
The 41st annual New England Classic and Antique Boat Show will be held at the Meredith Town Docks Saturday. (Roger Amsden photo for the Laconia Daily Sun)
Boat Show 3:
Bob Kidder of Franklin comes ashore at the Hesky Park launching ramp in Meredith with his Amphicar, an amphibious vehicle equally at home on land and in the water, during the 39th annual Antique and Classic Boat Show. (Roger Amsden photo for the Laconia Daily Sun)