A new exhibit highlights the people and vessels that plied the waters of Skagit County, from the earliest native canoes to the paddle-wheel steamers that spurred commerce in the late nineteenth century.
"It's all about the maritime history of Skagit County," said Jo Wolfe, fundraising and publicity coordinator for the Skagit County Historical Museum in La Conner, where "Skagit Sets Sail" opened last week.
"It covers everything from the really early days of snagboats to today, with cutting-edge technology," Wolfe said.
Wolfe said snagboats were used in the late 1800s to clear the Skagit River of logjams.
"They were used to keep the river mouth open for sternwheelers and other boats bringing supplies" to the ports upstream, she said. "It was non-navigable for a significant period. Trees were growing on top of the logjams."
To illustrate, the museum has a scale model of the snagboat WT Preston.
Commerce was important on the river because sternwheelers brought hay and lumber downstream and brought supplies upstream. There are exhibits on the sternwheelers Skagit Queen and Skagit Belle, plus information about the early fish canneries and the Carnation plant, where tin for cans was ferried upriver, and the finished evaporated milk was sent to market. Wolfe said it was the popular shipping method before railroads and interstate trucking.
"Skagit Sets Sail" features many scale models and pictures, but there's also a life-size shovelnose canoe and full-size Pelican sailboat, which was a 12-foot wooden boat with a mainsail and a jib, built in 1959 for the windy waters of San Francisco Bay. The boats, which are made from kit, became popular among members of a club who camped on Cypress Island, where they named Pelican Beach in the 1970s.
"They're small, skiff-sized, but it's the real thing with mast and sails," Wolfe said.
Also featured is information about the 1933 movie "Tugboat Annie" and the 1957 TV series "The Adventures of Tugboat Annie." Wolfe said that Anna Grimison, the first female owner of a shipping company and first female licensed boat pilot in the area, was the basis for that character. Others say it was Thea Foss of Tacoma, founder of Foss Maritime.
Illustrating Skagit County's current role in the maritime industry is an exhibit about the contribution that Janicki Industries of Sedro-Woolley made in designing some carbon fiber tooling for the Oracle, which won the 33rd America's Cup.
There's also a display of county's namesake naval vessel, the USS Skagit, with a 22-year history of service that spans World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War.
The Skagit was a Tolland-class attack cargo ship that carried 120 Marines and landing ship transports for amphibious assault. It served in Europe and the South Pacific, and was present for the 1945 Japanese surrender at Tokyo Bay. The ship was reactivated for service in Korea, with orders to support the Inchon Landing in 1950. It did not see action at the landing, which reversed the course of the war in the United Nations' favor.
But the Skagit did evacuate more than 4,000 refugees from the North Vietnamese port of Haiphong to Saigon during the Vietnam War. She also was used to ferry supplies and was awarded two battle stars.
The ship was decommissioned in 1969, and sold for scrap in 1974.
The Skagit County Historical Museum is at 501 S. Fourth St. in La Conner. Admission is $5 for adults and $4 for seniors and children 6-12. Museum members and children 5 and younger are admitted free. There's a special family rate of $10 for two adults and two children.
To get there, take Interstate 5 south to Highway 20 westbound. Turn left (south) at La Conner-Whidbey Road. Turn right (west) at the Morris Street traffic circle and a quick left on Maple Avenue. Turn right on Caledonia Street, right on Second St., right on Benton St. and left on Fourth St.
The museum is open 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday. For more information, contact email@example.com, 360-466-3365 or go to skagitcounty.net/museum.
EDISON BIRD FESTIVAL
The Skagit County village of Edison celebrates its second annual Edison Bird Festival with art, workshops and exhibitions Saturday and Sunday, Feb. 9-10. Featured is the Chicken Parade from 10:30-10:40 a.m. Saturday in downtown Edison. Find more information at edisonbirdfestival.com.
CHINESE NEW YEAR
The Northwest Chinese Cultural Association celebrates the Year of the Snake with performances of dancing, singing, music, and demonstrations of calligraphy from noon to 4 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 9, in the Syre Student Center at Whatcom Community College. Admission is $20 a person, $35 for a family.
Suggest your ideas for family-friendly events or day trips to Robert Mittendorf at 360-756-2805 or firstname.lastname@example.org.