Announcing the 2017 Windjammer Days Street Parade Grand Marshals
The Blake Family back row - Gary, Joe, Neil,
front - the late Virgina and Fred Blake
photo courtesy of the Boothbay Register
Each year, the Windjammer Days Street Parade kicks off the procession with a Grand Marshal. A respected tradition, this person is chosen for their strong character, sense of community, and their kindness toward others. This year there are three.
The "Blake Boys" as everyone knows them - Joe, Neil, and Gary were born and raised on Hodgdon Island in Boothbay, Maine. Today, they all still live in pretty close proximity to each other. Joe and his wife Brenda live on Barter's Island, Neil and his wife Sheila on Hodgdon's Island, and Gary and his wife Cathy at Boothbay Center.
Their father, Fred Blake, established Blake's Boatyard over in West Harbor back in 1951. The three boys spent every school vacation and summer working along side him in the Boatyard. In 1961, Fred purchased what is now known as Pier One from Gulf Oil. The three boys again worked along side their dad selling fuel, boats, and motors, as well as parking cars for boaters, many of them Squirrel Island residents. They sold Boston Whalers, Makos, Grady Whites, MFG boats, and Johnson Outboard motors. They even rented little Boston Whalers. Gary's daughter, Amy Blake Goodwin, along with her husband Dusty, who are managing the Boatyard these days shared, "To this day, I have customers who come in and tell me that they bought their first boat from Freddy and the boys back in the 60s. It's really neat to hear those old stories." In 1973, Fred and the boys moved all the operations back to West Harbor. Their uncle Percy Barter who helped run the West Harbor yard would often tease them, "You said you were just going over to town one day, and you didn't come back for 12 years."
The Blake Brothers - Neil, Gary, and Joe
Despite working together nearly every day of their lives, the Blake Boys remain close friends even choosing to spend a lot of their free time together. Many nights they would leave the boatyard to shower and change just to meet up again for dinner. Family dinners were very important to the Blake brothers. They still are today, though the family has grown so big with kids and grandchildren, it can be hard to get everyone together as often. "A favorite family tradition to kick off the summer season," says Amy, "is our annual Father's Day dinner at Rocktide. Every year when I would call Mary Lou for a reservation, she would laugh and ask 'How many this year?' The last Father's Day celebration before my Grandfather Fred passed away, we managed to all sit together under that neat old train overlooking beautiful Boothbay Harbor. It was a table for 22."