BELFAST, Maine — If it’s the weekend, it must be time for another festival in Belfast’s crowded summer activities calendar.
But this weekend’s offering, Belfast Harbor Fest, will be something special, according to Belfast Rotary Club member and event organizer David Crabiel. The annual festival will showcase a brand-new beer, a rowing regatta and all the spills, chills and thrills that any gawker could want during the National Boat Building Challenge and relay race.
First, five teams of boat-building amateurs start hustling Saturday morning to each put together an 11-foot wooden skiff. The teams get four hours to construct the boats, Crabiel said, are judged according to speed and quality, and then get into the water and row against each other.
That’s when things get really good.
“The relay race is a lot of fun to watch, because most of these guys can’t row, and the boats are leaking,” he said. “Last year we had a collision out there. It was great to watch.”
If that’s not enough boating-related fun, everyone is invited to participate in or watch the 11th annual Rowing Regatta held by Belfast nonprofit group Come Boating!
Any rowed or paddled craft may take part in the regatta, which has adult and junior classes, long and short courses and plenty of awards. Registration begins at 9 a.m. Saturday, Aug. 20, and the races begin at 11 a.m. Fees, which include lunch, are $5 for juniors aged 13-18 and $20 for adults.
Teams for the regatta come from all over, Crabiel said, adding that the events of Belfast Harbor Fest are a continuation of the city’s long maritime heritage. The festival in the past had been run by the Belfast Area Chamber of Commerce, but Rotary took it over last year and has worked to keep the festival free.
“It used to be a big maritime community, long before shoes, and long before chicken,” Crabiel said. “We’ve expanded it to include as many maritime activities as we could. We’re keeping it all free.”
One special event that does have a cover charge will be worth attending, he said, and that is Friday night’s launch party for the festival. The party will begin at 6 p.m. under a tent at Steamboat Landing and will be hosted by Marshall Wharf Brewing Co.
One of midcoast Maine’s favorite bands, the Toughcats of North Haven, will take the stage at about 9 p.m., and attendees will have the chance to sample a special beer that will debut at the party — Toughcats Imperial Pale Ale.
The cover charge for the party is $10.
Lobster fans also will have a chance to dine for a good cause at the Habitat Lobster Gala from noon to 3 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 21, at Steamboat Landing. Lobster, steak, clams, corn on the cob and homemade pies are all on the menu, with event proceeds helping Habitat for Humanity of Waldo County build the project’s second house.
Live blues music will be provided by the band Juke Rockets.
Tickets are $25 and can be reserved by calling 338-2344 or by stopping by the Mailloux and Marden Law Offices on High Street in Belfast.
For more information about Belfast Harbor Fest, please visit the website www.belfastharborfest.com.