Western Flyer returns with a Boat Parade! There’s still time to deck out a boat and join the parade

On November 4th, the Western Flyer will return to Monterey harbor for the first time in 75 years, second in line in a festive parade of boats! Monterey’s fire boat will take the lead, followed by the Western Flyer and a colorful convoy of fishing boats, sailboats, whale-watching boats, and even a few kayaks. As part of the parade, we’ll be holding a “Best Dressed Boat” contest (decorated boats), with prizes including incredible fossil art donated by our geologist founder, John Gregg. And who better to judge this contest, than the very descendants of the original crew from 1940? We’ve invited family members of Ed Ricketts, John Steinbeck, Carol Steinbeck, Sparky Enea, and Tex Travis to help judge.

Photo taken on the deck of the Western Flyer on March 11, 1940—the day Steinbeck, Ricketts, and crew left for the Sea of Cortez! Notice the boats in the background, still decorated from the Fishermen’s Festival and Boat Parade from the day before. Photo courtesy of the Martha Heasley Cox Center for Steinbeck Studies at SJSU

The “Best Dressed Boat” contest on November 4th was inspired by the 1940 Fishermen’s Festival held in Monterey on the day before the Western Flyer left for the Sea of Cortez. Steinbeck writes: “Our crew entered the contests at the sardine fiesta—the skiff race, the greased-pole walk, the water barrel tilt—and they did not win anything, but no one cared. And late in the night when the feast had died out we slept ashore for the last time, and our dreams were cluttered with things we might have forgotten. And the beer cans from the fiesta washed up and down the shore on the little brushing waves behind the breakwater.”

Minus the floating beer cans, we promise a day nearly as festive as that day in 1940. As reported in the Monterey Herald on March 11, 1940, “Thousands Jam Wharf for Party.” The celebration “began early with a breath taking parade of gaily decorated purse seiners. They filed out around the bell buoy in a unique kind of grand march, flags flying and horns blasting the morning air.” We promise horns in 2023.

Another 1940 article reports that all had a “Gay Time at Festival; Many Prizes.” “Over $100 in prizes and trophies was awarded at the Fishermen’s Festival yesterday for winners of the boat parade contest, games, races, and finally the jitterbug waltz contests at the night dance. Prize for the best dressed boat in the parade went to the Virgina II, Pete San Felipo, skipper; while second was Dante Allighieri, Sal Colletto; third El Padre, James Davi; fourth Sea Lion, Joe Crivello, and honorable mention went to the Eneas, O. Enea, skipper.”

Clearly the loaded Western Flyer skipped the boat parade in 1940, as it was ready for sailing the following morning. But in 2023, she could be a contender!

Although we’ll skip the jitterbug waltz contest (can anyone manage those steps?), the Boat Parade is still accepting registrants (decorations are optional!).

Join us at the Monterey Harbor at 11 AM to watch the boats come in. More details about the Homecoming Event can be found on our events page.

Posted in Blog