Celebrate the start of summer at the Harbor Springs Area Historical Society’s annual Blessing of the Fleet on June 27. The festive boat parade honors the area’s rich maritime history and blesses the community’s watercraft for a safe season. 

The event kicks off June 26 in Harbor Springs with a visit from the Utopia, a 77’ staysail schooner, designed by the late Fred J. Peterson and built in 1946. Utopia made her maiden sea voyage in 1947 when she cruised the North Atlantic, the Mediterranean Sea and Caribbean islands. In 1956, she embarked on a three-year cruise around the world, stopping at ports in the Azores, Gibraltar, Havana, Galagapos and dozens more. It’s estimated Utopia has logged more than 60,000 miles. In 2016, current owner Ellsworth Peterson donated the schooner to the Inland Seas Education Association.

Utopia will be at the city marina and open for free public tours on June 26 and 27 from 10 a.m.–3 p.m. “There is no doubt in our mind that Utopia is the perfect platform for developing a love of our Great Lakes, which will help to ensure they will be protected in the future,” says Fred Sitkins, ISEA Executive Director.

On June 27, all types of watercraft—kayaks, sailboats, paddleboards, yachts, fishing boats—are welcome to join the traditional Blessing of the Fleet boat parade at 6 p.m. Participants are encouraged to register with the Harbor Springs Area Historical Society to receive important radio channel and course information prior to the parade. The free event has grown every year, and in 2018, more than 146 watercraft participated. Onshore, Historical Society Trustee Dave Lyle announces each boat and gives a brief history of the antique vessels, and a community band performs for viewers. 

This year, the Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians will lead the Blessing out in the harbor in a Jiimaan (canoe). 

Click through photos of the 2018 boat parade. // Images by Nate Graham

At 7 p.m., immediately following the boat parade, the Historical Society will host the Summer’s Launch Party at the Walstrom Marine Showroom. Friends gather for a strolling supper catered by Vernales featuring local beer, wine, cocktails, music, a silent auction and raffle (prizes include a Pedego electric bike, paddle board from Irish Boat Shop and a J.McLaughlin shopping spree).

Tickets for the party are $100/person, and all proceeds support the Harbor Springs Area Historical Society. Get your tickets online or call 231.526.9771.

“Funds raised from the celebration help preserve the legacy of the Harbor Springs area and the memories and traditions of the people who live here,” says Kristyn Balog, Executive Director of the Historical Society. “Little Traverse Bay citizens have depended on the bay—historically and presently—for agriculture, potable water, transportation, trapping and fishing purposes, along with ceremonial and cultural use. While bringing history to life in Harbor Springs, this event is also meant to inspire more individuals toward Great Lakes preservation, stewardship and passion.” 

Summer’s Launch Party // Images by Phil Hutchinson

Make it a weekend getaway. After the Harbor Springs Blessing of the Fleet, rent a kayak or paddle board from The Outfitter, check out the nautical-inspired store windows, spend an afternoon at Pond Hill Farm (we hear the grilled cheese is top notch) and tour the Historical Society’s exhibits.

Photo(s) by Nate Graham