CHESTERTOWN — The annual tall ship festival put on by the Sultana Education Foundation pulls into the newly christened Port of Chestertown Marina this weekend with a big addition: a series of bluegrass concerts.
Downrigging Weekend is being held Friday, Saturday and Sunday with a double bill of sailing adventures and musical fun, as well as great food and drinks and family activities. With renovations complete at the marina, Sultana Education Foundation seized on the opportunity to expand the festival this year.
“It has been totally re-envisioned, I think it’s safe to say,” said Sultana President Drew McMullen of this year’s Downrigging plans in a previous interview. “This is a much bigger event than it has been — and it’s been a big event.”
Joining Chestertown’s own schooner Sultana will be regular Downrigging participants Kalmar Nyckel, Virginia, Pride of Baltimore II, Lady Maryland, Linx and Sigsbee. In addition to ticketed sails ranging from $25 to $60 a person, there will be free deck tours daily, nightly ship illuminations and a Saturday evening fireworks show.
The tall ship open houses will be held from noon to 2 p.m. Friday, 9 to 10 a.m. Saturday and at 11 a.m on Sunday. The illuminations will be held all three nights from 6 to 9 o’clock. The Saturday fireworks show will begin at 8:15.
An additional sight to enjoy during Downrigging are the tall ships parading home to port under sail. Catch them starting at 4:30 p.m. Friday, at 12:30 p.m. and 4:30 p.m. Saturday and 3 p.m. Sunday.
The Waterfront Village is where festival attendees will enjoy three days of food including oysters, craft beer and bluegrass concerts. Also at the village will be fire pits and s’mores, heated tents to get a break from the fall weather and games for adults and children.
The village will open at 4 p.m. Friday and 11:30 a.m. Saturday and Sunday. An all-access pass for Friday and Saturday — entry to the village is free Sunday — costs $25 per person. A single pass for Friday costs $15; entry costs $20 for Saturday. According to the Downrigging website, 100 percent of ticket proceeds will go to the Sultana Education Center’s scholarship fund.
The roster of bands is deep, with 12 acts scheduled to perform over three days. They are: Man About a Horse, the Dirty Grass Players, the High and Wides, Country Current, Caleb Stine, Betty and the Bullet, Flatland Drive, Apache Trails, MTN Lion String Band, No Part of Nothin’, the Simmons Family and Grey and Bluegrass.
Sultana’s Holt Center at 200 S. Cross St. will host a series of talks and events through the weekend.
There will be a screening at 7 p.m. Friday of the documentary “Kalmar Nyckel: The Forgotten Journey.”
Bring the family to the Holt Center on Saturday morning for educational experiences including the Maryland Department of Natural Resources Scales and Tales program and a model boat and ship exhibit. At 3 p.m. Saturday, John Tildesley will talk about his book on the life of historic Sultana commander Adm. John Inglis. Then at 5 p.m. Saturday, hear Tom Pelton talk about his book “The Chesapeake in Focus.”
There will be an open house at the Holt Center starting at 10:30 a.m. Sunday. Also, at 11 a.m. Sunday, the Holt Center will host “An Interactive Chesapeake Voyage: Native Americans of the Chesapeake Bay,” followed at 2 p.m. by “An Interactive Chesapeake Voyage: Chesapeake Through the Ages.”
For a full list of events or to purchase tickets, go to downrigging.org.
This is the first year the now-renovated Port of Chestertown Marina will host Downrigging Weekend. While what was formerly known as the Chestertown Marina has always played host to the event, the site has been undergoing renovations for the last two years.
With those renovations complete, the town will hold a grand opening of the renamed Port of Chestertown Marina at 1 p.m. Friday, Nov. 1.
“It’s been a long journey, and we’re thrilled that work on the Marina renovations is now complete. The dedication ceremony is to thank all of the state and federal agencies that made this possible, as well as all of the individuals who helped along the way. We now have an attractive, functional waterfront that will serve as an economic engine for Chestertown, Kent County, and the Upper Eastern Shore for years to come,” said Mayor Chris Cerino, who also is ice president of Sultana, in a news release.
The ceremony will be held at the new Cerino Center, 207 S. Water St., housing offices for the marina and ShoreRivers. The public is invited to the grand opening; free hot cider and cookies will be served.
According to the release, the $6.3 million marina project included a new marina office with handicap accessible bathrooms and showers and laundry facilities for visiting boaters, new docks, bulkheads and boardwalks, a gas dock and underground utilities. The ground level of the site also was raised to combat regular flooding from the Chester River.
Funding was provided by state and federal agencies and private donors who contributed more than $1.2 million, the release states.
The Nov. 1 ceremony will be emceed by Cerino, with remarks by Director Walter F. “Pete” Landon from the Governor’s Office of Homeland Security, Maryland Department of Natural Resources Secretary Jeannie Haddaway-Riccio, Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development Secretary Kenneth C. Holt, Maryland Department of Commerce Assistant Secretary Tom Riford and U.S.. Department of Agriculture State Director of Delaware and Maryland Denise Lovelady, the release states.
Kyle Hackett is returning home to Kent County as the guest speaker at 5 p.m. Friday for the opening reception of the African American Revolutionary War exhibit of students’ artwork at the marina headquarters building. A 2007 graduate of Kent County High School, who has family still living in the county, Hackett is a professor of studio art at American University in Washington, D.C. He also teaches at alma mater Maryland Institute College of Art in Baltimore.
On Saturday at 3 p.m. at the River Club (201 High St., second floor along the side of Evergrain bakery), Hackett will talk about his work with several pieces on display. There is no cost, but seating in limited. Light refreshments will be served.
To get yourself good and limber for all the Downrigging fun, start out Saturday joining the Run for Clean Rivers, a 5K and 10-mile race raising money for the ShoreRivers environmental organization. Registration opens at 8 a.m. in Wilmer Park. The cost for the 5K run/walk is $40; the 10-miler costs $65. The starting gun goes off at 9 a.m. Visit www.shorerivers.org/events-1//run-for-clean-rivers for more information.
Get one more use out of those costumes at 10 a.m. Saturday for the annual Chestertown Halloween parade down High Street, sponsored by the Chestertown Lions Club.
The Garfield Center for the Arts is hosting a Downrigging concert by the Pam Ortiz Band at 7 p.m. Saturday. Tickets are $15.
The Bookplate — 112 S. Cross St. — has a pair of speakers on the bill for Downrigging this weekend. At 11 a.m. Saturday, Tim Newby will discuss his work “Bluegrass in Baltimore: The Hard Driving Sound and its Legacy.” Then at 1 p.m. Saturday, Brian Hope will talk about his book “Bay Pilot: A History of the Maryland Pilots Association” on the men and women who guide ships through the Bay.
Local artist Marc Castelli will have his annual Downrigging show at Massoni Art, 203 High St. Castelli is scheduled to talk over coffee about his work highlighting life on the Chesapeake Bay from 10 to 11 a.m. Saturday.
Chestertown RiverArts is joining in the Downrigging fun with a pop-up gallery at the ArtsAlive! Education Center starting Friday and running through the weekend. The local artists on display with pieces in paint, fiber arts and clay are Barbara Snyder, B.K. Slocum, Paul E. Santori, Jean Marie Rodier, Martha Pileggi, Penny McRea, Holly Geddes and Julia Brown.
The ArtsAlive! Education Center is located at 200 High St. The pop-up gallery will be open from 5 to 8 p.m. Friday Nov. 1; 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 2; and 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 3.
The RiverArts Gallery just up the block at 315 High St. will hold an opening reception from 5 to 8 p.m. Friday, Nov. 1 for the organization’s student art show, featuring work in a variety of mediums by young artists in elementary through high school.
“Students, families, and the public are invited to our First Friday opening reception to see the variety of exciting work being done by Kent County art students,” an announcement states for the two-week show and opening reception. “Work by students from every school in the county will be on display, showing the breadth of talent and creativity of students from Rock Hall to Galena to Chestertown and everywhere in between.”
Also at the marina during Downrigging, keep an eye out for the log canoe Silver Heel, the Chesapeake Roving Ranger educational booth and antique boats organized by the Antique and Classic Boat Society of the Chesapeake or purchase a ticket for a special cruise on the River Packet.