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 and events that can only be experienced on Labor Day Weekend in Camden.

Visitors to the festival can bid on opening day for a dockside dinner aboard one of the schooners. The cruising schooners are open for tours Saturday and Sunday afternoons. A highlight during the day Saturday is the Lobster Crate Race where contestants run across a line of crates in a timed race, trying to avoid falling into the water.

New last year, a fish relay race will involve carrying slippery fish through an obstacle course, traveling through a simulated squall, across a bed of seaweed, and through inner tubes.

In the Build-A-Boat Contest, teams begin with the same materials on opening day and spend Saturday on the public landing creating homemade boats that compete on the course in the inner harbor on Sunday.

On Sunday, a Nautical Dog Show takes place in Harbor Park and pirates take over one of the larger schooners. Smaller schooners are available all weekend to treat passengers to a taste of the seafaring life out on Penobscot Bay.

This year’s Camden Windjammer Festival has added some brand new elements including free kayak trips to visit Curtis Island see its lighthouse. On shore there will be a lobster fishing demonstration, musical groups, a course in navigational and sailing skills, and a demonstration by a local master craftsman on constructing intricate ship models.

Seafaring trades built the foundation of the coastal village 225 years ago, and these trades continue to thrive today. Boat building, fishing, lobster boat passenger trips as well as day- and week-long sailing trips are highlights of the working waterfront.

Nowhere is the spirit of maritime heritage more alive than Camden, Maine, exhibited by flags flying from tall masts over the harbor during this longstanding celebration of nautical traditions.

Entrance to the Camden Windjammer Festival is free. A detailed schedule of events is featured at camdenwindammerfestival.org.

Sponsors include Courier Publications, Down East, Bangor Daily News, Camden National Bank, The Bay View Collection, First National Bank, Sea Dog, Pen Bay Pilot, Allen Insurance and Financial, Point Lookout Resort and Conference Center, Maine Sport, Cedar Crest Inn, Country Inn at Camden-Rockport, Once a Tree, the Waterfront Restaurant, Edward Jones and the Camden Area Business Group.