This weekend’s 28th annual Gloucester Schooner Festival, as always, is designed to bring a chapter of Gloucester’s history and heritage to life, with races and other events focusing on the historic wooden fishing vessels.
And with a visit by the replica H.M.S. Bounty — boat built for the 1962 film “Mutiny On The Bounty” that starred Marlon Brando — arriving Friday and welcoming weekend visitors Saturday through Monday — this year’s festival will be as steeped as ever in sailing heritage.
But this year’s festival is reaching out with much more than history. Organizers are continuing to step up programs aimed at carrying Gloucester’s and Cape Ann’s schooner heritage well into the future by focusing on a growing number of programs for youths.
For starters, the Cape Ann Chamber of Commerce will once again be offering up to 20 Cape Ann youths — ages 12 to 18 — the chance to sail on one of the schooners during Sunday’s Parade of Sail and the Mayor’s Trophy race, a showcase of the Labor Day Weekend festival.
But beyond that, the Chamber is steering proceeds from one of its benefit raffles into raising money for both the Gloucester High School sailing program and to the Gloucester Museum sailing program, a summer program for kids.
“We think of it as a way to extend the heritage of the schooners and of this festival,” said Chamber senior vice president Peter Webber. “We want to extend it through our youth — to give them a real appreciation of what this is all about.”
To that end, Tom Ellis, skipper of the Gloucester-based schooner Thomas E. Lannon — which will once again lead the Parade of Sail — noted that a major party for the schooner participants will also have a new focus this year. Instead of hiring a caterer, Ellis said organizers will handle the cooking themselves for the annual event at Maritime Gloucester, with money from that event also going to the high school and other youth sailing programs.
“I want to get away from the idea that we’re just a bunch of yachting people who want to have a party,” said Ellis, who has long welcomed local school students for tours on his Essex-built schooner. Over the last 13 years, the Lannon has hosted tours for all of Gloucester’s fifth-grade students — meaning that virtually every Gloucester public student now between the ages of 11 and 23 has been aboard. “We want to use the Schooner Festival to get today’s young people in touch with our history, our heritage,” Ellis said. “And the way to do that is to get more and more kids out on the water, where they can get a real appreciation for it.
“The more that we can get more young people excited about being on the water,” he added, “the more we can open their eyes to the potential Gloucester has for growth on the water — and the more they can realize the opportunities that are there for them, as well.”
Any youth age 12 to 18 who would like to ride aboard a schooner in the Parade of Sail or Mayor’s Trophy race should contact the Chamber of Commerce at 978-283-1601. For more on this weekend’s festival, visit capeannchamber.com.