Friday, Sept. 2 brings the launch of Camden’s annual maritime celebration. During Labor Day weekend, Camden is host to the largest gathering of windjammers and schooners in the Northeast.

The vessels parade into the harbor on the opening day, greeted by a welcome ceremony, a passenger and crew talent show, and fireworks. The festival continues through Sunday, Sept. 4, featuring three full days of nautical exhibits, food, unique events and experiences for residents and visitors alike.

A highlight is Saturday’s Lobster Crate Race, a chance for the fleet of foot to cross a line of crates… without taking a swim. In the Build-A-Boat Contest, teams begin with the same materials and create a wild array of boats that compete on the water on Sunday. A fish relay race involves carrying slippery fish through an obstacle course, traveling through squalls, inner tubes and seaweed. Pancakes and chowder keep visitors tastefully entertained. On Sunday of the Windjammer Festival, a Nautical Dog show and pirates take over Harbor Park.

The cruising schooners are open for tours Saturday and Sunday afternoon. Or take a ride on one of the smaller schooners for a few hours to get a taste of the seafaring life. On opening day, visitors can bid on a dockside dinner aboard one of the schooners famous for their food.

This year’s Camden Windjammer Festival has added some brand new elements including free kayak trips to visit Curtis Island see its lighthouse.Those who prefer calming activities can enjoy the boat parades, the many musical groups, gain navigational and sailing skills, see a lobster fishing demonstrations, or listen to a master craftsman tell how he completes beautiful, scaled boat models.

Seafaring trades built the foundation of the coastal village 225 years ago, and these trades still thrive today. Boatbuilding, fishing, sailing and motor trips, along with the downtown merchants supported by marine activity, are all central to the town’s economy. Nowhere is the spirit of maritime heritage more alive than Camden, especially during this full-fledged Labor Day celebration with flags flying over the harbor.

The Camden Windjammer Festival is a community-led celebration of Camden’s maritime heritage and living traditions. Sponsors this year include Courier Publications, Down East, Bangor Daily News, Camden National Bank, The Bay View Collection, First National Bank, Pen Bay Pilot, Allen Insurance and Financial, Point Lookout Resort and Conference Center, Cedar Crest Inn, and Country Inn at Camden-Rockport, The Camden Area Business Group, Once a Tree, the Waterfront Restaurant and Edward Jones.

Entrance to the Camden Windjammer Festival is free. A schedule with event details is available at camdenwindammerfestival.org.