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Rolling on the river: Powerboat festival expected to draw 30,000

Journal Staff Organizers of Sarnia’s largest festival say they have a few new tricks up their sleeve this summer, but two things won’t change.
Power Boats
Some 30,000 people are expected on Sarnia’s waterfront for the International Powerboat Festival Aug. 7-9. Live music, street performers and plenty of free activities will complement the powerboats, like those seen here racing on the St. Clair River. Photo courtesy, John Rondeau

Journal Staff

Organizers of Sarnia’s largest festival say they have a few new tricks up their sleeve this summer, but two things won’t change.

The International Powerboat Festival will be geared to families, and virtually everything but the concerts will be free of charge, said co-organizer Michele Stokley.

“It’s absolutely family-friendly. We’re even expanding the Kids’ Zone, which is right on the waterfront where the powerboats are going by.”

The three-day festival runs Aug. 7-9 and usually attracts 30,000 people to Sarnia’s riverfront, plus another 10,000 across the river in Port Huron.

One big change this year is the addition of Greekfest, which is moving downtown from St. Demetrios Church to join the party. The celebration of all things Greek will set up in the Scotiabank parking lot at 265 N. Front St., said co-organizer Dave Brown.

“It’s another spoke in the wheel and will really strengthen the festival,” he said. “It’s also First Friday that weekend so downtown should be a beehive.”

The other events take place at Bayshore Park, so only a section of Front Street near city hall will be closed off to accommodate the paid evening concerts.

Things kick off Friday with an out-of-water display of powerboats and a chance to meet some drivers and pose for photos between 4:30 p.m. and 6 p.m.

Friday’s concert features The Trews and Red Wanting Blue, with the gates opening at 8 p.m.

Tom Cochrane and Red Rider take the stage Saturday, with an act still to be named.

Evening concert tickets start at $40 and can be purchased at Stoke’s Bay, Stoke’s Inland or online at

Street entertainment will include balloon sculptors, stilt walkers, buskers and face painting.

At the popular Kids’ Zone, children can learn to make a boat and take it home from a Saturday workshop, or attend a junior busker workshop and learn to juggle, walk on stilts and do magic tricks.

Also on tap are crafts, life-sized board games and giant inflatables.

Everything is free, although kids who want full-day access to the inflatables can purchase a wristband.

The Powerwake Rail Jam Competition is an on-land wakeboarding event running all three days.

A wakeboard competition was attempted in the river a few years ago but swells from passing powerboats made conditions unsafe.

Also new is “Making Waves for Joanne,” a poker run on boats to raise money for a Harmony music scholarship in memory of former executive director Joanne Klauke-LaBelle.

Last but not least, the powerboat races themselves go Sunday, with boats equipped with dual 750 HP engines roaring around the St. Clair River until 6:30 p.m.

Brown had praise for city hall, which he said has been very supportive of the festival.

“They recognize we’re going to showcase the waterfront, not only for the thousands coming from out of town, but for the community as well,” he said.

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