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Classic Wooden Boats At Alton Bay Show

Thomas P. Caldwell - August 5, 2013

Boat Show

WOODEN BOATS will be on display at the Alton Bay Boat Show on Aug. 10.

Those who appreciate the skilled craftsmanship and classical beauty of wooden boats will have a rare opportunity for an up-close view of antique and classic boats as well as a chance to speak with their owners at the 37th annual Alton Bay Boat Show on Saturday, Aug. 10. Spectators also will be able to cast votes for their favorites in the People’s Choice Awards which will go to the top three entries.

The event, sponsored by the NH Boat Museum in conjunction with the Alton Old Home Day Committee and taking place at the Alton Bay Public Docks on Lake Winnipesaukee, is an informal vintage boat show that is open to all those with antique and classic boats, including Chris-Craft, Lyman, Garwood, Hackercraft, and Old Town. The boats can range from runabouts to cruisers to triple cockpits.

Lisa Simpson Lutts, executive director of the NH Boat Museum in Wolfeboro, described the event as a laid-back show with no advance registration or judging necessary, and no fees for either boat owners or spectators. The event will run from 9 a.m. to noon on Aug. 10 as part of the Old Home Day activities taking place that day.

“It’s an all-volunteer event,” said Lutts, explaining that the boat museum does the advertising and handles the supervision of the activities on the day of the event, including the awarding of prizes donated by local businesses for the People’s Choice Awards.

Lutts described the show as a fun, relaxed event where boat owners can just show up that morning and where spectators can talk with the owners who love to provide details about their boats. Last year’s event attracted around 25 boats and Lutts noted that there are different boats on display each year.

“People can spend the morning at the boat show and then go down to Alton Bay to get something to eat,” she said, noting that there are food and other vendors set up for the Old Home Day events.

Ken Sandhage who, with Leonard Finethy, serves as a co-chair of the event, described the boat show as “a lot of fun” and said it brings in “a lot of people and a lot of entertainment, and it fills the docks.” He added that, this year, there will be a parade, which has not taken place for several years. “Years ago, they had a parade, and it brought in lots of people,” Sandhage said.

The vintage boats date from the 1920s to the 1960s, many of them restored by the owners themselves; others by professionals who understand the unique characteristics of antique wooden boats. It often takes an expert because the boats were designed before the one-size-fits-all components of modern boats and each has its own specifications. The mid-20th century was the heyday for wooden boats, just as it was for classic automobiles.

Sandhage said he has been going around to Alton businesses, seeking donations for the boat show, and “Everyone’s very cooperative.” There will be prizes for the first-, second-, and third-place winners of the People’s Choice Awards, which will be announced around noon.

The number of boats participating will depend on the type, Sandhage said, noting that three runabouts will fit into a slip, while only two of the larger boats will fit. With a limited number of slips available, those arriving early will have a better chance of being accommodated.

“It’s a three-hour event that stops at lunchtime, and a lot of people feel that’s plenty of time,” Sandhage said of the show. “Then the docks can reopen for other boats to come in.”

“I was up there for the Meredith show on July 27,” Sandhage added, saying all of those events are quite popular. “There’s a lot of cooperation, and a lot of fun.”

The boat show originated as part of Old Home Day with the boat museum getting involved sometime within the last 15 years, Sandhage noted. Jill Gardner was in charge for many years, along with Leonard Finethy who also is a member of the NH Boat Museum. Sandhage, who has lived in the area for 33 years, later took her place.

Finethy grew up on the lake, his parents having bought property here in 1945. He witnessed the Alton Bay Waterski Club activities in the 1950s and ’60s, when there was a ski jump in the water near Sandy Point and they did four waterski shows a year, one of them at night.

There also used to be an Alton Bay Beauty Contest and an Alton Bay Yacht Club that had a clubhouse and did boat races in the 1940s and ’50s.

To learn more about the Alton Bay Boat Show, call the NH Boat Museum at 603-569-4554 or see

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