Summer festivals celebrating every kind of boat that floats, food truck cuisine from barbecue to bacon cupcakes, and Connecticut’s unique maritime history and culture await — a short ride across Long Island Sound via ferry from Port Jefferson or Orient Point.
Make an early reservation for the scenic ride to spend a day full of Yankee charm, sailing on a tall ship, picnicking at a jazz concert beneath the capitol dome or dining on the pier as fireworks burst over the Thames River.
Here are five unique Connecticut festivals taking place this summer.
THE 26TH ANNUAL WOODENBOAT SHOW
More than 100 wooden vessels of all shapes and sizes — from kayaks to motor yachts — are featured at the WoodenBoat Show, among the largest events of its kind on the East Coast. Visitors can board the Viking ship Draken Harald Hårfagre, which sailed across the Atlantic from Norway last year, or look in on the restoration of Mayflower II. Co-hosted by WoodenBoat Magazine, the show draws boat builders from around the country, and experts demonstrating traditional shipyard skills such as blacksmithing, Viking ship construction and wood-epoxy boat building. In the Family BoatBuilding, families can collaborate on building a canoe or skiff, which may be launched at the Show.
WHEN | WHERE June 30-July 2, 9 a.m.-5 p.m., Mystic Seaport, 75 Greenmanville Ave., Mystic
INFO Free with regular admission to Seaport: $28.95 adults, $26.95 seniors, $18.95 children 4-14; 860-572-0711, mysticseaport.org
Sailfest was launched 40 years ago to cap a sailboat race from Long Island to New London, says Barbara J. Neff, executive director and city dock master. The race is no longer held, but the festival continues in a lively downtown lined with whaling-era buildings. Attractions include a street market with 250 vendors, and three stages with live music — Latin, gospel and more. Cruise the river aboard a tall ship, dine on the pier or visit the 1830s Custom House. A Friday night dance party and Sunday country music concert with line dancing are being added for this year’s 40th anniversary. The Saturday 9 p.m. fireworks over the Thames River are an annual tradition.
WHEN | WHERE July 7-9, New London Waterfront Park and nearby streets
INFO Free; 860-444-1879, sailfest.org
MAHOGANY MEMORIES ANTIQUE & CLASSIC BOAT SHOW
The Southern New England Chapter of the Antique and Classic Boat Society holds its annual “in-water” show at this unique museum right on the Connecticut River. Runabouts and old wooden motorboats manned by authentic New England skippers can be boarded by visitors. You can take a cruise on the Onrust, a replica of the vessel Dutch captain Adriaen Block (think Block Island) used to chart the Connecticut River.
WHEN | WHERE July 8, 9 a.m.-4 p.m., Connecticut River Museum, 67 Main St., Essex
INFO Free; 860-767-8269, ctrivermuseum.org
GREATER HARTFORD FESTIVAL OF JAZZ
Last year’s 25th anniversary festival brought more than 70,000 jazz fans to Connecticut’s capital and fourth-largest city. This year, “it’s a woman’s theme,” says Charles Christie of Hartford, festival president. Bring a picnic basket or purchase Jamaican, Latin or deep-fried Southern specialties from the vendors, and spread out on your blanket for Latin and contemporary music on Friday, smooth jazz on Saturday and traditional jazz on Sunday. “What’s cool about it is that the backdrop is the state capitol and the Sailor and Soldiers Memorial Arch,” Christie says. The performers include Aziza Miller, who was music director for Natalie Cole, and whose band includes Cole’s son (and Nat King Cole’s grandson), Robert Yancey. A salute to Ella Fitzgerald’s 100 birthday anniversary highlights Sunday’s traditional jazz focus.
WHEN | WHERE July 14-16, Bushnell Park, Hartford
INFO Free; hartfordjazz.org
FOOD TRUCK FESTIVALS & BEST CHEF COMPETITION
Dine al fresco on the waterfront, munching on barbecue, tacos, falafel, bacon and more at two outdoor food festivals, each with 25 to 30 lunch wagons. At the Food Truck Festival every truck will offer at least one item containing bacon, such as a Fat Elvis banana cupcake with marshmallow filling and peanut butter frosting covered in candied bacon. A free concert begins at 6 p.m. on the city pier. The Best Chef competition is a Kansas City Barbeque Society (KCBS) championship cook-off. Alas, you can’t purchase or eat the competitor’s food, but sometimes samples are given out. For eats you have to walk to 22 bars and restaurants located near the ferry landing.
WHEN | WHERE Food Truck Festival, July 22 & Aug. 6, New London Waterfront Park. Best BBQ Chef Competition, Aug. 12-13, New London
INFO Free; 860-443-3786, downtownnewlondonassociation.com