By Pat Reynolds
Marina del Rey has a few signature events that define it, as much as events can. The Holiday Boat Parade, Opening Day at the local yacht clubs and the Sunset Series Wednesday night races are a few that come to mind. But there’s one that was a mainstay and then it wasn’t – the Marina del Rey In-Water Boat Show.
Every year Burton Chace Park would be lined with boats, and the lawn full of tents with merchants hawking their goodies. However, the last few boat shows didn’t draw the crowds and word has it that organizers didn’t turn much of a profit. So-long boat show… sad, because the annual event brought the community together and generated a legitimate positive excitement to the area.
A void was left that the boat show once occupied, but this year a group of local folks aimed to fill that void with a new event called MarinaFest that they believe will be another great yearly happening. The boat show and open house festival celebrated National Marina Day.
“The concept behind this is to get the community working as a community,” said MarinaFest organizer and longtime yacht racer Mike Guccione. “Everybody’s off doing their own thing, so we wanted to create something to bring it all together a little – this is a good beginning for us.”
Although there was a MarinaFest last year, Guccione explains that it was centered around a boat show, with a $12 admission, run by an outside company. But going forward, the event will be community oriented. This year it was a humble undertaking staged in a boat-broker parking lot with about 20 merchant tents set up. But to judge the event by the space it occupied would be a mistake.
On the gritty blacktop sat booths occupied by yacht clubs, marine companies and other small businesses and organizations, but this was only the base camp for the event. From here, organizers ran short boat tours to other areas of Marina del Rey where many other activities were happening, including mini boat shows at different docks.
This year, the Pacific Mariners Yacht Club’s famous nautical swap meet was part of MarinaFest and three other clubs also presented their strong suits. California Yacht Club offered a view into its junior sailing program and a tour of its grounds and the Santa Monica Windjammers Yacht Club invited Marinafesters to free sailing classes. After a short boat ride down the channel, representatives from South Coast Corinthian Yacht Club introduced the Lido 14 – a class of small sailboats built in Southern California that they have been forging for years.
It’s these on-water elements of MarinaFest that Guccione is most excited about. He has been very active over the past decade in promoting and trying to grow participation in the sport of sailboat racing and sees the event as a way for local people to get a taste of what Marina del Rey is all about.
“The boat rides are all free – everything’s free! We’re saying just come on down and find out what there is around here,” Guccione said.
MarinaFest also included the Marina del Rey Halibut Derby weigh-in as part of the hourly boat tours held. In addition, there were tours of the Harbormaster facilities, UCLA Marine Aquatic Center, boat yards, a wetlands/salt marsh tour, and a safety inspection for boaters by the Coast Guard Auxiliary.
Guccione admits that the event is new and not completely ironed out, but he was happy to have gotten the ball rolling.
“At one point it seemed like it was almost too late to do it, but we said, ‘you know, let’s get it done and we’ll find out what we need to make it better for next year and we’ll build,’” Guccione said.
It would seem that an annual affair like this could only build. A free event that employs a ton of on-the-water activities, shopping and a pleasant introduction into the Marina del Rey universe is an event that could become very popular.
Celebrating the Marina del Rey lifestyle at MarinaFest
By Pat Reynolds