George Raft Race, tall ships coming to Drayton Harbor Days

Published on Wed, Jul 23, 2014 by Steve Guntli

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Drayton Harbor Days, one of Blaine’s most entertaining annual events, is coming to Blaine Saturday and Sunday, August 2–3.   

The festival, returning for its 11th official year, is a celebration of the maritime spirit that makes Blaine so distinctive. It features all the games, food and vendors one would expect from a street festival, in addition to distinctive events like the 5K Run to the Border, the Prestigious George Raft Race and a visit from the tall ships Hawaiian Chieftain and Lady Washington. 

The Prestigious George Raft Race is one of the most popular yearly events in Blaine and an essential component of Drayton Harbor Days. Loosely modeled after the River Lyn festival that’s been held in Devonshire, England since the Middle Ages, Blaine’s raft race is a makeshift boat race in which participants craft a vessel out of any spare materials they can find. Each year, boaters on vessels made from plywood, driftwood, Styrofoam and plastic siding paddle out into Blaine Harbor, hilariously struggling to keep their flotsam ships afloat. 

The rafts can be made of anything that floats, so long as the captain can ride on top of it. Rafts can bear up to four people and one dog. Rafters will set out into Blaine Harbor marina at 1 p.m. on Saturday, August 2, and whoever makes it the farthest without sinking will earn bragging rights and the possession of the George Raft trophy until next year’s event. 

For more information on the race, or for ideas on raft designs and spare materials, contact Bob Knapp at 360/332-3111.

The iconic tall ships, Hawaiian Chieftain and Lady Washington, will be moored in Blaine Harbor from Tuesday, July 29 to Sunday, August 3. The Lady Washington is the official tall ship ambassador of Washington state, and something of a celebrity: She has been featured in numerous movies and television shows, most recently on NBC’s “Revolution” and ABC’s “Once Upon A Time.” She and the Hawaiian Chieftain travel to more than 40 ports each year throughout the Northwest, providing historical lessons for schools and the general public.

Carroll Solomon with the Blaine Chamber of Commerce encourages people to seize the opportunity to see the tall ships this year. 

“Normally, the tall ships come to Blaine for a week and then head to Bellingham, but not this year,” Solomon said. “Blaine is going to be their only stop in Whatcom County this year, and tickets always book up so fast.”

Visitors can take dockside tours of the ships for a $3 donation, or set sail out into the harbor for evening tours of the bay or for battle sails, recreations of famous naval battles from throughout history. Tickets for the battle sails are $63 for adults, $53 for students and seniors and $43 for children under 12. Evening tours are priced at $43 for all ages. On Wednesday, July 30, the evening sail into the harbor will be discounted to $33 for all ages. For more information or to purchase tickets, visit historicalseaport.org, or call 800/200-5239 on a weekday.    

The Run to the Border 5K and Kids’ Fun Run will begin at 8:30 a.m. on Saturday, August 2. Children participating in the Fun Run will run a one-mile loop around Marine Park at 8:30 a.m. At 9 a.m., adult runners will follow a route down Marine Drive to the pier, then back up Marine Drive to Peace Arch Park, where they will run through the Peace Arch on their way back down to Marine Park. 

The race will cost between $6 for kids and $16 for adults. All proceeds go to Let’s Move Blaine!, a non-profit organization dedicated to fighting childhood obesity and encouraging healthy activity in the Blaine school district. Runners can sign up for the event at letsmoveblaine.org.

The arts and crafts fair will once again be held at the Blaine Harbor Boating Center. The fair, featuring a wide variety of local and regional artists and food vendors, will take place both days of the festival from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. 

A new addition to the festival this year will be the Show N’ Shine Car Show on Sunday, August 3 from 1 to 4 p.m. Reminiscent of the popular car show that comes to Blaine every Fourth of July, the Show N’ Shine will allow visitors to see a fleet of beautiful vintage cars, custom hot rods and new automotive innovations. The car show will take up a parking lot in the harbor near the vendors on the boardwalk. Judges will award a trophy for Best in Show, and the first 20 cars to attend will get a dash plaque. There is no charge to register. 

For kids who want to get into the maritime spirit of the event, Blaine-Birch Bay Parks and Recreation District 2’s Pirate Daze are back. For a $10 registration fee, kids take to the seas on the Plover Ferry, search for buried treasure on Semiahmoo spit, learn real pirate sea shanties and make their own pirate costumes. Pirate Daze is open to kids aged 7-12, and will be held on Saturday, August 2 from 10:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Preregistration is required by Friday, August 1. For more information on Pirate Daze, visit nwparkandrec.org.

The festivities on Saturday will come to a close with an extra dose of awesome, with an outdoor screening of “The Lego Movie” at Marine Park. Paso Del Norte restaurant is sponsoring the screening. 

Drayton Harbor Days began unofficially in 1998 as the “Plover Swim,” a fundraising event sponsored by the Drayton Harbor Maritime Foundation to raise money for a new boathouse for the Plover ferry. The event returned the following year as “Plover Days,” and finally adopted its current name in 2003. 

For more information on the festival, visit the Blaine Chamber of Commerce’s website at blainechamber.com.