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Vintage and Antique Boats Return to Alton Bay

Kathi Caldwell-Hopper - July 30, 2012

If you love history, the lake, boats and getting together with friendly people, don’t miss the upcoming Alton Bay Boat Show. This year’s show takes place on Saturday, August 11 from 9am until 12noon and promises to be as much fun as in previous years.

“This is the 36th annual show in Alton Bay,” says Leonard Finethy, a NH Boat Museum member and co-chair of the show. (The NH Boat Museum sponsors the show. “I’ve been involved with the Alton Bay Boat Show for four years and I love it,” he continues. “It’s a really good time and offers spectators a chance to sit and talk with the antique boat owners. If you appreciate vintage and antique boats, you will love this show.”

Perhaps the reason the show is so popular is its laid-back atmosphere. It is billed as an informal, non-judged vintage boat show where all are welcome.

Admission to the event is free; just come to Alton Bay and be prepared to walk along the dock area. Bring your camera, because the boats are so beautiful you will want photos to take home so you can see the boats again and again.

“The show usually has about 30 boats in the water in Alton Bay by the docks,” Leonard says. “The boats range from small vintage to big 35-foot long boats. There will also be reproductions of old boats and many finely restored antique boats on display.”

Leonard explains that antique boat owners almost always spend the time and money to get their boat(s) restored and in top-notch running condition. He adds that the owners often are a bit older and grew up seeing wooden and vintage boats on the lake. Now they have the time and resources to own a classic boat. If it needs restoring, they put the money into getting the boat in good condition, because it’s all part of the reason to own a boat: to get it out on the water and really enjoy boating.

“Sometimes an antique boat is the only boat a person owns and they put a lot of time and funds into getting their boat in good running condition. Those boats are so wonderful to see,” he says.

Leonard, like many boaters, grew up on the lake and appreciates the family fun of boating. “My parents bought property here in 1945. I love the lake and boating.”

Being a NH Boat Museum member has offered Leonard a chance to socialize with other antique boat lovers. The Alton Bay Boat Show is fun for boaters, as well as offering them a chance to show off their old boats. “I have to say the people I meet who own antique boats are congenial and proud and a very happy group of people. It’s fun to be around them and to talk about boating.”

Most of the participants in the Boat Show start arriving by water at about 8am and all are in place at the docks by the show’s 9am starting time. The purpose of the show is to have fun and it’s kept informal. Participants love to share their boating knowledge with spectators and to use the show as a chance to teach about the importance of the antique and vintage boats in Lakes Region history.

The boats will be numbered and the public can vote on their favorite boat. The winning boat owner will receive a prize, but it’s all kept low-key and laid back. The participants are more interested in showing off their boats and socializing with fellow boaters than they are in competition.

The NH Boat Museum will have a table set up at the show and they will be selling boating items and will be on hand to answer questions about the museum and becoming a member.

Leonard shares some Alton Bay boating history that fits right in with the upcoming boat show. “In the 1950s and 60s, there was an Alton Bay Waterski Club that was very active. They had a ski jump in the water near Sandy Point and they did four waterski shows a year and one was at night.

“There was also an Alton Bay Beauty Contest at the Alton Bay bandstand in the late 1950s and an Alton Bay Yacht Club. The Yacht Club had a clubhouse and did boat races in the 1940s and 1950s.”

The boating history in Alton Bay ties in well with the boat show and may have been the reason the boat show was started 36 years ago.

Whatever the reason, the upcoming August 11 Boat Show will offer a chance to get out and enjoy all sorts of boats from antiques to reproductions. Bring your camera and your questions about old boats and plan to spend the morning enjoying this fascinating piece of Lakes Region boating history.

For information on the 36th Annual Alton Bay Boat Show, call the NH Boat Museum in Wolfeboro at 569-4554. 

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