Reflection: Festival Of The Sea Brings International Maritime History To Life

September 07, 2018 Posted by: Peter Kasin
Since 1979, National Park Service sponsored Hyde Street Pier festivals have brought to life our shared maritime heritage. Whether it is the “Sea Music Festival” or “Festival of the Sea,” each event features music, dance, maritime arts, shipboard demonstrations, and many more family-friendly events. Our goal is to entertain and help give the public a deeper understanding of maritime history and culture. What better way to interpret our shared history than through music and hands-on activities?

Ships’ rigger Reno Cambridge demonstrates working with standing rigging.
Ships’ rigger Reno Cambridge demonstrates working with standing rigging.

On Saturday, August 18, 2018, over 6,000 visitors gathered together to experience our maritime heritage at the Festival of the Sea. The festival featured music on three stages, plus many other activities for adults and children. As I walked along Hyde Street Pier and aboard the ships, I was struck by the effect the diversity of music and activities had on our public. Longtime festival visitors and newcomers alike thrilled to the compelling South Carolina Sea Islands songs and stories from Gullah heritage from SC performers Ron and Natalie Daise. Rousing jigs and reels were played by local Irish music performers on uilleann pipes, accordion and guitar. Instrumental music of the Philippines rang out from the American Center of Philippine Arts, and Patrick Landeza, one of the nation’s leading Hawaiian slack-key players brought his guitar wizardry to the stages.  A host of performers of sea chanteys, and other songs of the sea graced all the venues. Children enjoyed craft-making and rigging demonstrations. The morning sail raise aboard the schooner C.A. THAYER garnered a large number of participants, who hauled on a line and sang a sea chantey to set the rhythm. Visitors discovered traditional maritime skills such rope-making and caulking, through hands-on demonstrations by park staff and volunteers.

Ron and Natalie Daise perform Gullah songs from the South Carolina coast.
Ron and Natalie Daise perform Gullah songs from the South Carolina coast.

The ship to shore breeches buoy rescue demonstration was a popular event, with park staff being “rescued” from the C.A. THAYER, getting dunked into the bay in the process as they were hauled from the schooner to the pocket beach!

The festival’s public learned about park partners – other Bay Area parks and non-profit organizations – by visiting their tables aboard the ferry EUREKA and meeting their representatives. Kids enjoyed maritime craft making aboard the EUREKA, spreading appreciation and enjoyment of our heritage to a new generation.

The festival, and all our park’s festivals, display a great camaraderie between a diverse group of performers, staff and volunteers, and between those and the cultural diversity of the public. Longtime festival performers mingled with newer performers, and audience members often met and talked with the performers between acts. There was a relaxed and friendly atmosphere which the public, performers, staff and volunteers enjoyed – and it showed in the enthusiasm all around!

The day’s festivities ended with the annual “All Hands” finale on the midpier stage, bringing many of the day’s performers together for a round of chanteys.

From all park staff and volunteers, we would like to extend our sincerest appreciation to everyone who contributed to the success of this event. Without you, the festival would not be the same. Here’s to seeing you back for another festival in 2019!
Audience members enjoying midpier stage performances.
Audience members enjoying midpier stage performances.

San Francisco Maritime NHP, Festival of the Sea, Maritime History, Maritime Culture, sea music, Alma, Eureka, C.A. Thayer

Last updated: September 7, 2018

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