Mosquito Fleet Festival to celebrate power of steam

"Though the Mosquito Fleet ferries stopped running with the advent of the Northwest's numerous bridges, its former glory is annually celebrated at the Mosquito Fleet Festival, which returns to Port Orchard Sept. 16.Helen Higgs, former historian for the Northwest Mosquito Fleet Society, described the importance of the Mosquito Fleet, which operated from 1850 to 1952.It was the only transportation there was. There were a few bridges started about that time, but there was no other way of crossing the water, she said.The Mosquito Fleet was semi-organized during the 1850s, when private ferry operators began shuttling workers and wealthy logging families alike to ports around the Kitsap Peninsula and the Northwest. As the economy of the area boomed, the number of ferry operators increased until someone remarked their steam-driven cacophony was like mosquitoes buzzing through the water. Thus, the Mosquito Fleet was dubbed.Years after the Mosquito Fleet retired, the Mosquito Fleet Festival celebrates the romantic era in the Kitsap Peninsula's history, as well as the maritime life and livelihoods the Mosquito Fleet represented.The festival, themed Celebration of Steam, will take place along the Port Orchard waterfront and Frederick Street from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sept. 16. More than 40 vintage steam-powered vehicles and craft will be on display in the Kitsap Bank parking lot.Kids will be able to build their own boats, hear stories at the Port Orchard library, fish paint a T-shirt and visit a diving and touch tank display of marine life.Also at the library will be a maritime arts display, with oral presentations on the history of the Mosquito Fleet given by historian and artist Robert Ulsh, current Northwest Mosquito Fleet Society secretary.Music and activies will take place along Frederick Street, which, according to organizers, is an expansion of the festival.Bill Barton, Fleet Captain of the Sinclair Inlet Yacht Club, organized the sailboat race again this year. The Sinclair Inlet Yacht Club is sponsoring the race.Kitsap Tours will run a narrated, historic tour of Sinclair Inlet from 11:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. Tickets, which cost $5 per person, can be purchased in advance or at the dock.For more information on the Mosquito Fleet Festival, call the Port Orchard Chamber of Commerce at 360-876-3505. "

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