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2009 Chicago Maritime Festival


The 2009 Chicago Maritime Festival takes place on Saturday, February 28th at the Chicago History Museum, beginning at 10 a.m. For those who want to absorb the history and culture mariners, it is well worth the price of admission. Though not all presenters and performers have been equally talented in past festivals, the ones who are good are very, very, good. I discuss just a few of the highlights below.

Theodore Karamanski is a fascinating lecturer, speaking this year on how the inland waterways shaped Abraham Lincoln’s personality and politics. Mr. Karamanski knows how to bring an audience back in time and to really understand how historical characters lived.

If you’d like to know what it would be like to see a ten-foot-wide butterfly emerge from a cocoon, then be sure to attend “Hands-on-Safety,” where Jay Chrissey will activate a state-of-the-art, eight-man survival raft. Jay offers up harrowing anecdotes of near-death and complete-death experiences that remind you how powerful Mother Nature is.

The sea shanty is a dying music form, and after listening to a couple minutes of one, it’s easy to understand why. But the “Bawdy Sea Songs” program is among the most enjoyable 45 minutes you can spend – if you’re over eighteen. It also reminds you that bawdiness didn’t originate with rock videos.

Despite one or two adult-only programs, there are plenty of family-oriented programs at the festival. And if you enjoy the sea shanties, you can join in the next day at the Sunday Afternoon Shanty Sing – an all-ages affair.