Creativity and resilience brought a new vision for a well-loved event from idea to reality. And it was awesome.
It would be one big experiment. Never been done before. But, hey … why not?
When the pandemic hit, it soon became clear that hosting a festival that brings 30,000 people from all over the country—globe, even—might not be a good idea. Left and right, event cancellations proliferated while cases spiked and the deadly risks of Covid-19 became evident.
Planning for the 44th annual Wooden Boat Festival (WBF) had been well underway. Hmmm. After dodging a bullet the year before with the uncertainty about the renovation of the docks at Port Hudson, Coronavirus presented a whole new level of challenge for this Northwest stalwart. As in, perhaps, “Forget it.” But we boaters are a hearty lot, and especially those of the Wooden Boat Festival variety. I mean, after all, we are known for beautifully varnished wooden boats, and if that is not the definition of insanity in Pacific Northwest weather, what is?
Leave it to the brilliant creators of the wildly successful Race to Alaska (R2AK) to come up with innovative solutions. No doubt sparked by the crazy antics and clever ideas that flooded YouTube the first month of the pandemic lockdown, they thought, why not harness frustrated energy into a festival that captured the spirit and stories of a typical WBF in a fun format could be enjoyed from anywhere? I can hear the gears turning in their minds (perhaps after a beer or two):
“We’ve got all these ridiculously talented folks, proud of their boats to the point of insanity and driving themselves batty to get the varnish perfect so they can strut like peacocks for four days. Why don’t we funnel this unhealthy proclivity to fuel more potential insanity—like we’ve always done? We just need to do it with physical distancing.”
“Yeah! What could be a better method of physical distancing than to deliver direct to their eyeballs through their computer screens? After all, haven’t we already witnessed addiction to the race tracker?”
More beers and more brainstorming followed; they threw down the dice and gave it a gamble.
They issued a call to folks originally slotted to show their wooden masterpieces or do a demonstration or give a talk: “Submit a video of your boat shop! Host a Zoom Room! Submit a video of your quarantine boat project! Give us a tour of your boat!”
Fortunately, you (and I) can still catch more of the festival until October 19 at https://virtualwbf.org/.