The picturesque town of Madisonville, founded in 1817 along the banks of the wide Tchefuncte River, celebrates its maritime history each October 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 Lake Pontchartrain Basin Maritime Museum, 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 in front of the Maritime Museum, with bounce houses, games, an obstacle course and science fun with STEAM-based activity areas, demonstrations 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 newest addition to the festival is the "Anchors Away" Cardboard Boat Regatta on Saturday, sure to amuse, too, or astound, if they stay afloat. Individuals and teams test their skills in creating, and piloting, their own seagoing vessel made of cardboard, for prizes (and bragging rights).
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 for adults, $5 for seniors 65+ and free for kids 12 and under and active duty military.