CHATHAM — Next month, residents and visitors will have a unique chance to learn more about Chatham's working waterfront, while they savor the fresh seafood and libations the town has to offer.
The nonprofit Fishing Partnership Support Services, which made a name for itself by helping fishing families obtain health insurance and other kinds of assistance, is sponsoring the first-ever Chatham Port Tour and Seafood Celebration on Thursday, June 22.
The fundraising event marks the nonprofit's 20th year in service and will allow patrons to visit the town's key commercial fishing hubs to learn more about commercial fishing and enjoy seasonal seafood samples paired with local beer and wine. It will be based at the trap dock at Stage Harbor, said Shannon Eldredge, who is organizing the event with her sister, Morgan.
“We'll be doing a trolley tour to the fish pier, Ryder's Cove and the Oyster River,” she said. At each stop, ticket holders will learn more about Fishing Partnership Support Services' programs, like the safety training academies it offers to commercial fishermen. Each stop will include displays, archival photos and personal tributes that describe the impact of local fishermen on the community.
In recent years, the partnership has changed focus from health insurance to other important services, like providing dock-side health screenings, and giving members access to legal and financial professionals and counselors for family problems, depression, grief and substance abuse.
The event will conclude with the presentation of the group's 2017 Navigator Award to Shareen Davis, a lifelong fishing community advocate, and the Eldredge sisters' mother.
In part because of Davis' efforts, the organization has provided safety training to hundreds of fishermen around the region. The sessions teach participants about firefighting, the use of distress signals and survival suits, and how to prevent at-sea emergencies.
The timing of the festival, on a week night early in the season, aims to prevent conflicts with the use of the landings, Shannon said. Care will be taken to ensure that the event doesn't keep shellfishermen or other mariners from using the landings.
“June still is kind of the shoulder season,” she said, and the town has been working to encourage events that draw people to town in the months before and after peak summer season. Organizers have been in touch with the town's economic development committee, she added.
Tickets will be limited to 75 people for the trolley tour, with an additional 50 to 75 for people who only plan to attend activities at the trap dock.
Starting at Stage Harbor, the trolleys will begin their tour at 5 p.m., returning to the trap dock at 7 p.m. The event will conclude by 9 p.m. Full details and ticket information will be announced shortly.
With Davis abstaining from the discussion and the vote, selectmen unanimously granted the partnership the required permits to use town property, to serve alcohol and to have live entertainment. The food and alcohol will be served by a licensed caterer.
“Do you think this will be an annual event?” Selectman Jeffrey Dykens asked.
“It would be awesome to be an annual event,” Shannon replied.