Arts and Entertainment

Shanty Fest celebrates maritime music, helping families in need

Before heading out on tour, the Shifty Sailors will perform their songs of the sea and whales at Shanty Fest. -
Before heading out on tour, the Shifty Sailors will perform their songs of the sea and whales at Shanty Fest.
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Even during cold January, there’s a chance for a fun time for a good cause. Shanty Fest will take attendees on a maritime adventure Saturday, Jan. 26 at the Greenbank Farm.

Free workshops by each musical group will run from 1 to 5 p.m. Then the Shanty Fest concert begins at 6:30 p.m. Tickets cost $20 for adults; children get in free.

“It’s our one time during the year that we can do something really neat for the community,” said Vern Olsen, Shanty Fest coordinator. “It’s not really a shanty fest anymore; it’s songs of the sea, anything to do with water.”

“There aren’t many shanty festivals in the Northwest,” Olsen said. “As far as some place that should have a shanty fest sailing event, it’s Whidbey Island. Settled by sea captains, a lot of fishing history here, old families from England.”

This year, all proceeds of Shanty Fest benefit South Whidbey and Central Whidbey Hearts and Hammers and the Habitat for Humanity Home Preservation Program.

The Home Preservation Program funds repairs of homes. Home Depot supplies the funding but it must go to military-connected families, Olsen said.

“So the other families in need aren’t receiving any funds,” Olsen said. Shanty Fest proceeds will help these people in need.Whateverly Brothers

This is the festival’s fourth year. In the past, they have raised $2,000 to $3,000 each year.

“We’re hoping we do the same this year,” Olsen said.

Bringing their maritime tunes to this year’s Shanty Fest are the Whateverly Brothers, the Shifty Sailors, Hank Cramer and Cannery Underground.

This is Cramer’s first time singing on Whidbey, Olsen said. From Winthrop, Wash., Cramer will bring his booming bass voice, vintage guitar and wry sense of humor. In the past, he crewed on the Lady Washington.

This is also Cannery Underground’s first time singing at Shanty Fest. The duo hails from Guemes Island in Anacortes and specializes in Northwest folk music. Group members are Tim Wittman and Dave Perkins.

Returning from last year are the Whateverly Brothers, including Dan Roberts, Chris Glanister and Matthew Moeller.

“People liked them so well (last year) we invited them back,” Olsen said. “The guys like to come here because they are well treated.”

Olsen said he expects the variety of performers to make the concert exciting.

“A whole concert of one group, you can say, ‘Why’d I come to this?’ At this, you can say that but you get a new group in half an hour,” Olsen said.

“And the Greenbank Farm is a perfect place for us,” Olsen said, adding that inside the barn, the audience has the feeling of being inside the hull of a ship.

Shifty Sailors go on tour

The Shifty Sailors, an internationally performing group that has released five CDs, sponsors the event. This year, their Shanty Fest musical repertoire celebrates the whale.

“We decided to honor the whale because this is the year they chose to name the new ferry after Tokitae, as we know her, Lolita,” Olsen, a longtime member of the Shifty Sailors, said.

The Shifty Sailors have toured Europe four times, the seaports of England, Hawaii and more. This year, they’re changing things up.

“So this year, we decided we’re going to stay around here and do seaports of the West Coast,” Olsen said. The group will start the tour in June in Aberdeen and travel to San Francisco, Santa Cruz and Medford, with many stops in between, before ending up on Whidbey for a concert June 30.

Many of their concerts will be fundraisers for such projects as a public access on the water in Aberdeen and for various maritime museums. They will visit places like St. George Reef Lighthouse in Crescent City, Calif., one of the largest lighthouses. It is situated six miles off shore and hosts helicopter tours during part of the year.

“They’re really eager. Everyone’s really eager for us to come,” Olsen said. “We said we’ll do the concert and split the pot with you … they’ll never lose anything on a concert.”

Fifty family members and friends will join the tour to cheer on the musical group that has been together for 20 years.

“You never know how long we’re going to continue to go,” Olsen said, adding that the average lifespan of a musical group is 12 years. “So we’re way past the average life of a singing group.”

The Shifty Sailors added a couple of high school students, bringing the number up to 22 members.

“Maybe that will help us with getting younger members,” Olsen said.

Shifty life

“We haven’t performed at some of our Coupeville festivals in a long time, some that we enjoyed a lot,” Olsen said, adding that at the Arts and Crafts Festival, the stage is located near the Post Office, while the shopping booths are set up on Front Street.

“Why would we want to bring 17 or 20 guys out to sing to nobody? … Our thought is and what we presented is, why not let us roam through the booths and sing,” Olsen said. So they did. One year, the Shifty Sailors wandered among the booths singing for two hours, to positive response from the community. However, the festival committee didn’t agree.

“Our thought is that maybe we’ll get back to that somehow,” Olsen said.

Before the Shifty Sailors head out on tour, don’t miss their St. Patrick’s Day bash. Tickets sell out quickly, Olsen said, and they’ll be available to purchase at Shanty Fest.

At Shanty Fest, beer, wine and other refreshments will be available. Tickets are available from Wind and Tide Bookstore, Bayleaf, Local Grown, Greenbank Farm’s Wine Shop, Vino Amore and Moonraker Books, or from brownpapertickets.com.

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