Boat the Blue organizers draw inspiration from Wimbledon in downtown window decorating contest

Hopes of a new tradition taking root in downtown Port Huron come alive this month as members of the Boat the Blue committee have launched the first-ever Boat the Blue Window Decorating Contest. It’s the second consecutive year the committee has leveraged the arts to build excitement leading up to the annual Port Huron Boat the Blue Antique & Classic Boat Show, which is scheduled for Friday and Saturday, Sept. 10 and 11.

Downtown business owners have until Monday, Sept. 6, to complete their storefront decorations. The committee will then award cash prizes to the winners.

For Audrey Torello, executive administrator at Michigan Mutual in downtown Port Huron and part of the committee behind the Boat the Blue events, incorporating public art into the months and weeks leading up to the big weekend not only builds excitement for the event itself but offers even more reasons to come downtown.

“Art supports community. We want to reach all types of individuals, and not only those who are interested in boating,” Torello says.

For the window-decorating contest, Torello and her fellow committee members — Cynthia Cutright, Don Fletcher, and Lesley Murphy — are taking inspiration from one of the biggest and most famous events in the world: The Wimbledon Championships in London, England. The window decorating contest there has taken a life of its own and, for some, can be a bigger draw than the tennis tournament itself.

“We got this idea from Wimbledon. They started doing something like this a long time ago and it’s really taken off. Some people don’t even care about tennis, they just go to downtown Wimbledon to see all the different shops and their decorations,” Torello says.

“We’re hoping that one day people will come downtown, not only for the boat shows but for the art, too.”

Serving as a spark to the contest, the Boat the Blue organizing committee recently commissioned Memphis native Faith Serio, now a student at College for Creative Studies in Detroit, to paint Boat the Blue-themed murals in the windows of four downtown businesses. The Boat the Blue window art can be found in the storefronts of Casey’s, Moe’s Deli, Sperry’s, and MIMutual. Those local businesses sponsored her work.

Zachary Floyd, a resident of nearby Clyde, took home the first-place prize in the 13- to 19-year-old category in this year’s art contest.Last year it was the debut of an art contest for area young people. That competition returned this year and wrapped earlier this month, with participants in the 12-and-under category receiving ice cream gift certificates. Winners in the 13- to 19-year-old category received cash prizes; Zachary Floyd, a resident of nearby Clyde, took home the first-place prize, a $300 award. The top four winners of the latter group will see their artwork printed as large posters, which will soon be placed in the storefronts of downtown Port Huron businesses.

“We’re trying to bring more culture and art to the area, to bring everyone downtown and get more kids involved,” Torello says.

“We want this to grow and become something really special.”

For more information about this year’s Port Huron Boat the Blue Antique & Classic Boat Show events, art contests, and more, visit the Boat the Blue official website.