Business

Chris Craft returns to PO

"Summertime holds many chances for Kitsap Peninsula residents to enjoy water-related recreational activities, and the annual Chris Craft Rendezvous to be held July 19-22 is one of the fastest growing.The event has been held at the Port Orchard Marina for 12 years.We're one of the few places in the Sound that can host 150 boats for a whole weekend, said Port Orchard Marina Harbormaster Steve Toms. The rendezvous is an opportunity for Chris Craft boat owners to come together for three days of appreciation for a brand of boat that is revered by some, but dwindling in recognition by the masses.Part of it is the rarity (of the boats), said Fred Rowe, an organizer for the event and part of the core committee that sponsors the rendezvous. Chris Craft is acclaimed, but, unfortunately is not nearly as acclaimed as 30 or 40 years ago.Chris Craft Industries has been around since the late 1800s. It was started by Chris Smith and his family as a business that manufactured duck decoys and duck boats out of a main factory in Algonac, Mich., near Detroit.They started small...with a line of work boats, said Rowe. But they grew, and during the '40s, '50s and '60s, Chris-Craft was probably the largest builder of production line boats (versus custom-built models) in the United States.Chris Craft, which has not been family-owned since the 1960s, was famous for all different types and all different sizes of boats, according to Rowe. Different styles of power boats, motor boats, runabouts (To many people, they're best known for their mahogany runabouts, said Rowe), mid-sized cruisers, kit boats (which is described as a kit containing everything that would be needed to build a boat), cruise-a-homes, and sail boats make up the stock of Chris Craft. The boats range anywhere from 18 and19 feet up to 65-feet-long, and have been made of many materials, including steel, aluminum, fiberglass and, most spectacularly, wood.The rendezvous is a celebration of the boats, and people who own Chris Craft models and want to display them or view other styles are encouraged to attend.It's like 300 of our closest friends (during the rendezvous), old faces, new faces, said Toms. We (at the marina) just make them feel like they're coming home, and make everybody feel welcome. The event has no affiliation with Chris Craft Industries and is, in fact, put on by a committee of Chris Craft owners. There are no ties to any Chris Craft dealer, said Rowe. Our committee funds (to sponsor the event) come from the $35 registration fee for the boats.The registration fee enables the boat owner and whomever is on their boat access to the entirety of the rendezvous, which includes scheduled events throughout the entire weekend.All of the events have a nautical flair, said Rowe. The boats are the stars of the show, but there's activities planned for the entire family.Activities include an antique auto show, nautical swap meet, awards dinner, hors d'oeuvre party, giant raffle, morning coffee and doughnuts, children's events, and guest speaker Jerry Conrad, a Chris Craft archivist for the Mariners Museum in Newport News, Va.In the early '60s, Chris Craft donated all their records of boats made in the '30s, '40s and '50s, said Rowe. Archivists can help the average boater with a boat built during those years and find out records about that boat.Facts like when the boat was built, what it was originally equipped with, who was the original purchasing dealer and where and when the boat was first shipped to make up some historical facets that dedicated Chris Craft owners may find interest in. It's all the information that the factory would've had, said Rowe.The event will also host a Bingo Night, which the rendezvous committee is working with the Port Orchard Chamber of Commerce on to gain revenue for both groups.We try and work with the local merchants to provide a good time and also some cash and business for the local community, said Rowe.It just all comes together, said Toms. I'm anticipating it's going to be very successful. We're looking forward to it. "

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