Reviving a tradition, Inland Seas is bringing the Classic Boat Show back.
After an eight-year hiatus, the show returns Saturday to the nonprofit organization's Suttons Bay education center. The free event features a host of indoor and outdoor, on water and dry land activities.
The show will feature a wide array of sail, power, row and paddle boats — nearly three dozen were signed up as of last week with more expected — as well as demonstrations of Opti pram and kayak building. The event will also feature a nautical flea market with a wide range of donated items helping to raise money for the organization.
Kids activities, demonstrations and the exploring the Inland Seas Education Center's exhibits and movies will round out the event.
Attendees can also check out Inland Sea's educational schoolship, Inland Seas, and cutter Champion on the water. For a $20 fee, they can also take a ride on a sloop or motor yacht; paddling excursions on the Maritime Heritage Alliance's Voyager canoes are free.
"There will be boats of every conceivable material — that's what we're about, not just one type," said Tom Kelly, founder and executive director of Inland Seas Education Association. "We're looking for a variety."
The Watershed Center Grand Traverse Bay will bring their iconic tugboat Bay Monitor to the festival. Baykeeper John Nelson agreed that the boat show provides excellent opportunities to educate boaters and other attendees about water -related issues.
"I think it's great, the boat show always gets people interested in clean water and keeping the bay in great shape," he said.
This year's event honors the memory of Mark Pleune, the Classic Boat Show cofounder who died in April.
The show was an annual gathering for 25 years until 2004 and Kelly is pleased to revive the gathering, which is held together this year with the Leelanau Peninsula Wine, Food and Music Festival.
"The boat show has roots to the '70s," said Kelly. "After we discontinued the boat show, I'd run into people on that day in the next few years looking around, 'Where is the boat show.'"
Inland Seas tried a more generic summer festival instead but found it challenging to compete with so many other summer events, festivals and activities. Boats are a natural fit for the organization and an excellent lure to draw in people.
"We've had a lot of excited interest in bringing it back," Kelly added of the Classic Boat Show.
Kelly launched Inland Seas 24 years ago not even knowing if anyone would attend the on-water, hands-on educational programs envisioned. Now the schoolship draws 4,000 students a year from around the region, state and Midwest.
The Classic Boat Show provides a perfect summer event that supports the organization's mission to protect the Great Lakes, which comprise 20 percent of the world's surface freshwater.
"Anything to do with boats has a vested interest in the water," he said. "That's how I got started, because of sailing with my dad on White Lake and then Lake Michigan."