Picture this: It’s the 1940s in North Idaho. Lake Coeur d’Alene is lined more timber, and less homes. Sleek wooden boats zip across the pristine water. The North Idaho College is located downtown — called the “Coeur d’Alene Junior College” — instead of along the waterfront. The Coeur d’Alene Resort hasn’t even been built. Instead, the shorelines are bare, but that doesn’t stop boaters from slipping their aluminum, fiberglass or wooden vessels into the water and exploring the lake.
Today, the waterfront is completely different. Homes have been built, downtown is booming, and The Resort stands as an icon along the waterfront (and thank goodness — we need someplace to pop inside for a drink and nourishment before hitting the water!)
However, some boaters have held on to the boats of those early years. And, for one huge annual event, Coeur d’Alene visitors and locals alike can step back in time.
The Classic Boat Festival takes place August 26 and 27. Vintage boat owners line the Floating Boardwalk with beautifully restored, rebuilt and preserved classic vessels. Boat owners come from all over the Northwest – some as far away as Texas, Arizona and California to display them proudly.
While many of the boats are mahogany, others are early fiberglass or aluminum, and their owners come from all over the Inland Northwest to display them proudly.
It’s a great opportunity to chat with owners of the nearly 60 boats who attend every year — most of these boats are incredibly rare, and you may never again get the chance to see them together on one dock. This is a big part of the heritage and tradition of North Idaho.
In past years, I’ve loved going to the Classic Boat Festival, as well as other wood boat shows across the Northwest. Even though I know nothing about classic boats — I grew up sailing with my family on Lake Coeur d’Alene — it was a great opportunity to see something totally unique.
At one show, I was actually able to talk to one boat owner as he and his wife polished their boat — a wood boat named “Chubasco.” They told me about how they restored the boat, and what they do to keep the boat in pristine condition. It was amazing the lengths they went to!
At the end of the show, they offered to give me a ride, and it was incredible! There’s nothing like seeing the lake from the back of a beautiful antique boat! The couple ended up winning Best Restored Antique Utility, and I could understand why — they put so much work into keeping their boat in pristine condition. It was a really amazing thing to witness!
If you’re looking for the perfect summer activity, check out the Classic Boat Festival. Even if you’re not a boat buff, you’ll find this slice of Idaho history fascinating!