The picturesque town of Madisonville, founded in 1817 along the banks of the wide Tchefuncte River, celebrates its maritime history each year with the very popular Madisonville Wooden Boat Festival. Attracting scores of classic hand-crafted wooden boats from across the Gulf Coast, the festival is a flotilla of fun, offering visitors the chance to view and sometimes board the boats, enjoy great food, live music and two days of activities.
The event stretches from Water Street and the Tchefuncte riverfront for several blocks to the Maritime Museum Louisiana, which hosts the fest to benefit its educational programs and Madisonville lighthouse restoration. Expect to see vintage wooden boats dating back decades: cruisers, luggers, sailboats, skiffs and trawlers with names like Mama Doll, Miss Ashley, Never Done and Reaux Boat.
There are food booths selling Louisiana specialties, live music and entertainment, and the Children’s Village located at Madisonville Ball Park, 1007 Pine St., which will host ROV demonstrations by Northshore Robotics, painting, a pumpkin patch and more.
One highlight of the festival, started in 1990, is the Quick ‘n’ Dirty Boat Building competition. Participants pick a theme and then have 14 hours to build a boat from materials provided them. Boats then must complete a 100-yard course on Sunday afternoon to prove their seaworthiness. Many fail horribly, much to the amusement of onlookers.
The festival attracts about 30,000 visitors each year and shuttles are available to get people in and out of the area quickly. Admission is only $10 per day for ages 12+, free for kids 11 and under.