Many municipalities are blessed with both a rich history and a beautiful geographic setting. Some, like Georgetown, S.C., a harbor town on Winyah Bay, work hard to make the most of that propitious combination. Th e town of 9,099 will hold its 26th annual Wooden Boat Show Oct. 17–18, drawing a comparatively sizable throng of visitors from “a multi-state region,” according to Paul Gardner, the city’s police chief since 2007.
The festival was expanded to two days last year. It features a boat-building contest and race, yacht club and children’s regattas, exhibits, live music, museum tours, knot tying demonstrations and other nautically related activities.
“This is the premier special event of the city, which contributes a lot to business,” he said, commending the festival as “extremely well organized by a committed committee.”
About 15,000 to 20,000 revelers attended last year’s event. At least as many are expected this year.
Part of the festival’s growth is attributable to the city’s steadfast, albeit behind-thescenes involvement. Gardner articulated the rationale behind the successful municipal nonprofit collaboration.
“We asked what the city could do and offer to make it easier and leave a better feeling for everyone who attended,” he said. “We thought about providing sanitation and other services to make the festival easier to throw, and so the committee could focus on growth.”
Georgetown’s standing policy is events must financially stand on their own. “But there are certain events like the Martin Luther King and Christmas parades and the boat show that the city council endorses and provides in-kind services,” said Gardner.
The biggest challenge is crowd control. But with the well-behaved multitudes who customarily attend the festival, his department doesn’t mind the work.
“From a law enforcement standpoint, it’s just a great couple of days to meet and greet people. We’re just there for emergency responses.”
The Wooden Boat Show was started by a group of business people motivated to improve business in downtown Georgetown. The event’s fiscal success spawned the Harbor Historical Association and the South Carolina Maritime Museum.
Sally Swineford, volunteer for the event since its earliest days, chronicled the event’s recognition.
“Last year we won the Charles A. Bundy Award presented by the state’s department of parks, recreation and tourism, and for the last three years we were voted one of the Top 20 October events by the Southeast Tourism Society.” The society’s deliberation area comprised 12 states.