Best of the Day: Gloucester Schooner Festival – September 4, 2015

Set sail for a weekend-long celebration of New England maritime history.

Welcome to Best of the Day, our daily recommendation for what to check out around town. If you do one thing in Boston today, consider this.

There are plenty of ways to send summer out with a bang this weekend, but few are as majestic the 31st annual Gloucester Schooner Festival.

A celebration of New England’s maritime history, the festival brings more than a dozen schooners to Maritime Gloucester for a weekend of sailboat racing, schooner tours, boat parades, and even a fireworks display.

Festival organizers have declared 2015 “the year of the Essex schooner,” owing to the number of Essex-built boats joining the party. In the heyday of the schooner, Essex was a hotbed of shipbuilding, churning out vessel after vessel. Festival organizers point out that of the 4,000 schooners built in the 19th and 20th centuries, only a select few remain viable—and you’ll be able to see some of them on display this weekend, as the fleet includes both 19th-century vessels and modern replicas.

Writes festival chair Daisy Nell:

This year we are lucky to have a fleet of six large (over 80 feet) schooners, 6 medium-sized, and 6 small schooners to help us celebrate the vessel that is the symbol of Gloucester. Of these eighteen stunning schooners, six of them were built in Essex. With the 2014 replica of the 1923 Essex-built Schooner Columbia being the most recently built, the oldest is the Lettie G. Howard, built in Essex in 1893, when Grover Cleveland was president. That’s one hundred and twenty one years of living history, right before eyes.

Today, the festival kicks off with the arrival of the 610-foot Navy dock landing ship USS Fort McHenry in mid-afternoon, followed by a Gloucester block party on Main Street.

The Gloucester Schooner Festival runs September 4-6. For more information, visit