Raymond Doucette, president of the Wedgeport Tuna Tournament and Festival. CARLA ALLEN PHOTO
As they were preparing for the 2013 Wedgeport Tuna Tournament & Festival, organizers were expecting a busy week this week, with plenty of people turning out for the various festival activities.
“It’s a big event,” said Raymond Doucette, president of the tournament and festival.
From the organizers’ perspective, he said, “You start in the morning and you go until night.”
It’s worth the effort, of course, if it helps bring people to the area, which is just what the tournament/festival does, Doucette says.
“It draws a lot of people … from everywhere,” he said, adding that people who have relatives in these parts plan their vacation in order to be here at the time of the tournament.
This is the 10th year for the Wedgeport Tuna Festival & Tournament, the event having been launched in 2004.
This year’s tournament and festival-related activities got underway Sunday, Aug. 18 and runs to Saturday, Aug. 24.
Aside from the fishing itself, the lineup includes a pageant, dinner theatre, musical entertainment and a seafood extravaganza.
Tuna weigh-ins are scheduled to begin at 2 p.m. Friday, Aug. 23, at the tuna wharf, although the exact start time remains to be seen.
It can be something of a guessing game as to precisely when the weigh-ins will get underway, Doucette says.
“We say 2, but sometimes it can be 3,” he said. “You see, we have to work with the tide as well.”
The festival got underway Sunday, Aug. 18, a day that included a tuna fun run in the morning and a dinner theatre in the evening.
The festival’s opening ceremony wine-and-cheese will be held Monday evening, Aug. 19, at the tuna museum.
The next evening – Tuesday, Aug. 20 – it’s the captains’ sendoff at the Wedgeport breakwater wharf.
On Wednesday, Aug. 21, there will be a junior fishing derby (10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the breakwater wharf) and a treasure hunt (6 to 8 p.m. at the museum).
On Thursday, Aug. 22, it’s the Wedgeport tuna tournament pageant, scheduled for 7 p.m. in a tent behind the museum.
Tournament/festival activities on Friday, Aug. 23, include the weigh-ins, scheduled for 2 p.m. at the tuna wharf, along with a “seafood extravaganza” picnic (4 p.m.) and a beer garden and live entertainment featuring Cross Border (5 to 8 p.m.)
The week wraps up Saturday, Aug. 24, with food booths opening at 11 a.m., tuna weigh-ins at noon, live entertainment with Up & Coming (1 to 2:30 p.m.), closing ceremonies (3 p.m.) and a beer garden and more live entertainment (with the Grinders) that night.
Monday, Aug. 19
• OPENING CEREMONY WINE & CHEESE:
7 p.m., Wedgeport Tuna Museum, Lower Wedgeport. Organized by the Pageant Committee. Come eat and drink and explore the tuna museum and meet this year’s pageant princesses. $7.50 per person. Tickets sold at the door or in advance at the museum.
Tuesday, Aug. 20
• CAPTAINS’ SEND OFF:
7 p.m. Wedgeport Breakwater Wharf, Lower Wedgeport. Wish the fishermen well as they set sail for the fishing grounds, it’s a 12-hour sail. This activity is free.
Wednesday, Aug. 21
• JUNIOR FISHING DERBY:
10 a.m. to 2 p.m., Wedgeport Breakwater Wharf, Lower Wedgeport. Anyone 16 and under can participate. Bring your rod, lures and lifejacket to catch some fish off the wharf. Parent or guardian must be present. Register at the museum. This activity is free. Event is sponsored by D. K. Muise Motors.
• TREASURE HUNT:
6-8 p.m.: Wedgeport Tuna Museum, Lower Wedgeport. Bring a team of two or more, a car and a camera and search Wedgeport to take pictures of yourself with all the items on the list. $5 per person
Thursday, Aug. 22:
• WEDGEPORT TUNA TOURNAMENT PAGEANT:
7 p.m. Tent located behind the Wedgeport Tuna Museum. Cost: $5. Pageant includes live entertainment.
Friday, Aug. 23:
• TUNA WEIGH IN:
(Pending arrival of boats) 2 p.m. Wedgeport Tuna Wharf, Lower Wedgeport.
• SEAFOOD EXTRAVEGANZA:
IncrEDIBLE Picnic Presents a seafood extravaganza at 4 p.m. Various seafood booths will be available in the tent located behind the Wedgeport Museum, items will include steamed lobsters, clams, oysters, lobster rolls, sushi, seafood chowder, bacon-wrapped scallops, tuna steaks and more.
• BEER GARDEN & LIVE ENTERTAINMENT: 5-8 p.m. featuring Cross Border
Saturday, Aug. 24
• FOOD BOOTHS:
11a.m. while supplies last. Rappie pie, fricot, fish chowder, sushi, tuna steaks, lobster rolls, BBQ and more.
• TUNA WEIGH IN:
Starting at 12 p.m. Wedgeport Tuna Wharf
1-2:20 p.m. Up and Coming
• CLOSING CEREMONIES:
3 p.m. Tent behind the Wedgeport Tuna Museum
• BEER GARDEN AND LIVE ENTERTAINMENT:
10:30 p.m. to closing. The Grinders, $12 cover charge. Youth under the age of 19 are not permitted at the beer garden.
Note to festival participants: There will be a free shuttle service on Aug. 23 and 24. Call 663-4345.
For more information about the festival call Tasha Doucette at 663-2560, or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
You can also visit the Facebook pages: Wedgeport Tuna Tournament and Wedgeport Tuna Pageant.
The following is an historical recap of Wedgeport’s tuna sport fishing industry. Taken from the Wedgeport Tuna Tournament and Festival website.
From 1935 to the mid 1960s, Wedgeport was once the sport tuna fishing capitol of the world.
What attracted the Bluefin tuna close to the shores of Wedgeport was the abundance of feed, making the Tusket River and the Tuna Rip excellent tuna fishing grounds.
Rod and reel tuna fishing began in 1935 when Michael Lerner, accompanied by his guide Tommy Gifford, were told there were plenty of tuna off Wedgeport.
Many fishermen made fun of him but he managed to convince Évée LeBlanc to bring him out fishing. To everybody’s surprise he caught five bluefin during his first visit to Wedgeport.
Two years later, in 1937, Wedgeport saw the birth of the International Tuna Cup Match organized by S. Kip Farrington, Jr. Following 1937, some 28 different countries participated in the International Tuna Cup Match.
Hundreds of bluefin were caught each year off the coast of Wedgeport, but one year shone above the rest by match standards. In 1949, 72 bluefin tuna were caught during the International Tuna Cup Match for a total weight of 30,161 pounds.
During the International Tuna cup matches the winning team would be awarded the Alton B. Sharp Cup, the 5th oldest cup in international sport. The tournament stopped being held in 1976, said at the time to be due to a lack of fish.
In 2004, 28 years after the tournament was stopped in Wedgeport, it was revived. A small group of Wedgeport residents integrated the tuna tournament with the Yarmouth Shark Scramble. No fish were caught that year but Wedgeport did not give up and the following year, two bluefin were landed. By 2008, 16 bluefin tuna were landed.
The Wedgeport Tuna Tournament and Festival has since become an annual event.