BELFAST — Food, music and just about everything nautical will be on full display in Belfast Aug. 19-21.

The 15th annual Harbor Fest, hosted by the Belfast Rotary Club, returns to the waterfront for a free three-day celebration of Belfast’s heritage.

“(Harbor Fest) is back, bigger and better than ever,” said Harbor Fest Chairman Duke Marston.

Bigger and better could be an unofficial theme for this year’s Harbor Fest, which launches on Friday, Aug. 19, with Evening by the Bay at a new location.

“Paul (Naron) has donated the use of his new building (United Farmers Market) at 15 Front St.,” said Evening by the Bay Chair Sue Beeman. The opening event will feature finger food and live music by the duo of Ann and Barry Brindle, known as Jonesville, as well as live and silent auctions.

“Each year the auction items get more interesting, and more varied,” Beeman said. “There will be something for everyone.”

Anchoring Harbor Fest weekend is the National Boatbuilding Challenge, buoyed this year by increased prize money. Challenge winners will now receive $1,000 with prizes of $500 for second place and $250 for third. The challenge is simple: build it, float it, row it. Two-person teams will compete to be the first to build the 12-foot skiff, and then test its seaworthiness. Competitors come from varied backgrounds.

“Boatbuilding teams have been made up of carpenters, professional and amateur boat builders, and never-before-built-a-boat pairs,” Marston said. “Some teams finish, some don’t. Some boats float, some don’t. Some great builders can’t row a lick.”

Boatbuilding Challenge Chair John Carrick explained the process. “All of the teams are making the same boat,” he said. “There are three phases over four hours. Building the skiff is the first phase. After that the skiff is judged for completeness, and then each team member has to row the boat 50 yards out and back. We had a team build their boat in under two hours, but they finished second because they couldn’t row.”

The National Boatbuilding Challenge will get underway at 11 a.m. on Saturday, Aug. 20, with judging taking place at 3 p.m. and the team relay at 4 p.m. at Steamboat Landing Beach.

Co-anchoring Harbor Fest weekend is the Cardboard Boat Challenge Sunday morning, Aug. 21. Teams build a boat of cardboard and then attempt to row it to a designated marker, with varied results. The event is a crowd favorite with many teams creating theme boats and many others offering entertaining sinkings when attempting to float their boat.

The Cardboard Boat Challenge is a crowd favorite. Photo Courtesy of Philip G. Carthage

This year the Waldo County YMCA will host a pair of workshops for cardboard boat building teams, supplying all the materials necessary. Those workshops will be held at the YMCA on Aug. 16 and 18 at 5 p.m.

Harbor Fest weekend will also feature a classic boat show and the 21st annual rowing regatta sponsored by Come Boating!, as well as a puppet show in the Boathouse on Aug. 20 at 4 p.m.

Other events include a 5K road race and blueberry pancake breakfast the morning of Aug. 20, tours of the Front Street Shipyard, a Boat Gear Swap, live music, food trucks and children’s activities.

Harbor Fest weekend will offer something for everybody, bigger and better. For more information, go to belfastharborfest.com.

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