Chicago Maritime Festival 2011

The Chicago Maritime Festival hosted by the Chicago History Museum in association with The Chicago Maritime Museum and Common Times was held on February 26, 2011.  The event began at 9:30 a.m. and ended at 4:oo p.m. Beginning at 7 p.m. was an evening concert of maritime music that showcased the talents of Navy Band Great Lakes, Belize Culture and Heritage Association, Cindy Kallet, Tom and Chris Kastle, Bab Walser, and Pint and Dale. A silent auction was held during intermission and a grand finale at the end. Along with the evening concert during the day, other featured talents included the Old Town School of Folk Music Sea Music Class, Bounding Main, The Hard Tackers Shanty Team, David HB Dranke, and Walkter Askew.

While the musical talent was numerous, the speakers who graced the festival were just as informative and entertaining. “Native Shore: Indian Life and lake Michigan was presented by an annual attendee and speaker, Professor Ted Karamanski of Loyola University and a new comer Kate Kendzy Gingold presented her findings on her juvenile work, Ruth by Lake and Prairie. The historical work of Gingold presents the perils of a young woman and her family moving from Ashtabula, Ohio to founding the settlement of Naperville in the early 1830s. While the work is based on fact, Gingold wrote the book in a third person narrative seeking artistic license at times to describe events on the ship’s journey to Chicago and the Prairie ride to the south DuPage River.  The work is a delightful read especially for late elementary and middle school students learning the state and local history of Cook and DuPage counties. The activity book, although not included with the book purchase, is an addition that should be considered a helpful companion with the book. It reaffirms the vocabulary words highlighted in the book  and utilizes  imaginative exercises for children such as pioneer boy and girl paper dolls, reconstructing a log cabin, and what to pack on the trip.  The most attended seminar was not a speaker, but the bawdy songs seminar. Many of the vocalists featured during the day and at the evening concert were included the presentation. The audience was highly encouraged on joining in on the singing. At times, the words were pretty raunchy so no one under the age of 18 was admitted. One of the songs that stuck was A Rovin (song number 15 on Bounding Main website) sung by Bounding Main.

The seminars and the music were exceptional, but the educational activities were the highlight of festival. The ship making and the How to be an Underwater Shipwreck Detective presented by the Underwater Archeological Society of Chicago were the most popular. The ship building was difficult, but rewarding once finished. Children were encouraged to design their own or build a one similar to a historic replica featured on the Great Lakes during the Age of Sail.

Many Chicagoans gloss over the Maritime history of their city and think of the architecture of the late 19th and 20th centuries and the Great Fire of 1871 as the most important events of Chicago. Early settlers and sailors of the mid-19th century would beg to differ. Whatever the event or time period the maritime history of Chicago remains an essential asset of today’s Chicago and the Chicago Maritime Festival celebrates that fact every year at the Chicago History Museum.

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