Celebrate the past, present and future of our bay next weekend at Chesapeake Appreciation Days at Sandy Point State Park.

The two-day festival, which got its start in the mid-1960s, honors skipjacks, which have been used for dredging oysters since the early 1800s.

When the working sail was at its peak on the Chesapeake, before World War I, perhaps 1,500 skipjacks sailed the bay. This year, approximately 18 skipjacks will be used for oysters dredging, the only commercial fleet still working under sail in the United States.

In the early 1960s, a group from the Windjammers of the Chesapeake Inc.

worked together to organize an annual race to honor the amazing skills of the skipjack captains and to give the public a rare glimpse of the beautiful skipjack -- now our official state boat. The first skipjack race, in 1965, marked the beginning of the Chesapeake Appreciation Days.

The celebration has grown over the years. In addition to the festivities next weekend, over 1,200 elementary school students get hands-on experience earlier in the week. The students will visit 35 instruction and demonstration stations that will mix participation with ecological education.

The activities next weekend will be many and varied. In addition to the skipjack races, there will sailboat races plus pig, duck and goat races, live entertainment on stage (folk singers Jerry Haines, Tom Wisner, Jr.

Cline and the Recliners and Pete Kennedy), a jousting demonstration, Maryland State Police K-9 demonstrations along with displays and exhibits from the Department of Natural Resources, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Meade Modlers Airplanes, Maryland Waterman's Association, Chesapeake Bay Foundation and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

The two-day celebration will have contests, too: a photography contest (for information on entering, call 541-2352 or 541-2433), an amateur oyster shucking contest (contestants may sign up just prior to Sunday's start) and a workboat docking contest.

Add to all this, excellent food and drink and you have one grand celebration.

Festival hours both days are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission is $5 for adults and children younger than 12 are free. If you're not busy doing something important like fishing, you should consider hoisting a toast to the Chesapeake at the Chesapeake Appreciation Days.

Looking for a head start on Christmas shopping? Here's a couple of suggestions for the outdoorsman on your list.

The folks at the Ultimate Hat company have come up with a couple of very interesting pieces of head gear. They have introduced the Ultimate Cap, a long-billed cap with back flaps that fold down to keep the rain or sun off your neck. When not in use they snap up out of the way.

Also new this year is their Ultimate Winter Hat, a combination of Woolrich wool and Du Pont Cordura nylon. It is a classic, yet sporty, cold weather hat that I really liked. For more information call Ultimate Products Inc. at 1-800-477-4287.

Most of us receive more periodicals than we can find time to read, but let me introduce you to one more that strike your interest. It is called The Complete Smoker and is published by Theodore Justin Gage. The magazine is dedicated to the serious pipe or cigar smoker and fills a void.

The Complete Smoker is a handsome magazine about tobacco pipes, cigars and topics that would interest the serious smoker. For more information, drop a note to The Complete Smoker, P.O. Box 7036, Evanston, Ill., 60201.

Bob Spore is a Coast Guard-licensed charter boat captain from Pasadena.

His Outdoors column appears every Friday and Sunday in The Anne Arundel County Sun.

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