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, classic cars, a beer garden and carnival rides. The Children’s Village is a designated area with arts, crafts, music, games, science experiments and an obstacle course. Area artisans sell jewelry, driftwood sculpture, seagrass hats, paintings and metal sculpture 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 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 for adults and free for kids 12 and under, seniors and active military.