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50th Antique Boat Show and Auction opens Friday in Clayton

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CLAYTON — North country residents will have the opportunity to get “on board” at Clayton’s Antique Boat Museum in the coming days.

The museum will host its 50th annual Antique Boat Show and Auction from Friday, Aug. 1, through Sunday, Aug. 3.

An Antique Raceboat Regatta will take place the following weekend, with courses opening Friday, Aug. 8.

The boat show, which expects to feature upward of 125 antique exhibits this year, can trace its roots back to a single vessel: Idyll Oaks.

Idyll Oaks is an “auto-boat,” also called a “long-decked launch,” a configuration that came into vogue around 1908 in response to the appearance of automobiles. It is laid out like a car, with the engine forward under a deck, an automotive steering wheel and dashboard, a windshield and all forward-facing seats. This is in contrast to earlier pre-auto-era boats which were often open, with bench seats facing the middle of the boat and the engine in the back or in the middle. The V-transom and forward raked stem line are characteristic of Hutchinson boats.

Idyll Oaks — 28 feet long, 6 feet, 6 inches wide — was built in 1924 by Hutchinson’s Boat Works in Alexandria Bay. Alan R. Youngs and his wife, Madeline E., purchased the boat in the summer of 1963 after finding it in a shed at Mercier Marine in Clayton. They then began a yearlong restoration project, with the help of the Thousand Islands Marina in Clayton, owned by Thomas Turgeon.

In an interview with the Antique Boat Museum, Caroline Youngs, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Youngs, recounted the dusty, poor condition of the boat before it was restored:

“It was terrible,” Ms. Youngs said. “So they took the boat all winter and they did a wonderful job of restoring it and bringing it back.”

Once restored, Idyll Oaks received a grand christening party and was placed back in the water.

The boat served as an inspiration to the Youngs family, as they began reaching out to local boat owners, organizing Clayton’s first antique boat show, in 1965.

The first show was relatively simple; it featured a parade of 18 antique boats, followed by a small museum exhibition.

“We had stuff starting in the morning and then we had the boat parade,” said Ms. Youngs. “People came in and could see the boats and stayed a little bit longer after the boat parade. So it was only one day. Then it just started getting bigger as each year went by.”

Ms. Youngs was just 15 years old for the first antique boat show. She served as a hostess and a volunteer for the event.

As the boat show grew in popularity, its small group of supporters — then known as the Antique Boat Auxiliary — gained momentum.

In the early 1970s, a permanent museum was constructed to host the annual show. It was called the 1000 Islands Shipyard Museum. In 1990, its name was changed, and the current Antique Boat Museum was born.

Idyll Oaks had several subsequent owners and was donated to the Antique Boat Museum by Dan and Lynn Morrow in 1998. In 2004, the museum gave it fresh paint and varnish in preparation for the 40th boat show. The decks, transom, seats and interior are mahogany, while the hull is cedar planks over bent white oak frames and keel.

Wendy A. Fetridge of Fayette in Seneca County has been attending the antique boat show since 1969, when she was only 4 years old.

“It has expanded and become more intricate, and also more competitive,” she said. Of the museum, she said, “We’ve watched it go from a corrugated metal building to the beautiful campus that it is now.”

Her husband, Richard S. Fetridge, has also made the trip to Clayton for over 20 years. He began attending when he and Wendy started dating, and they plan to be at this summer’s show with their children.

“The museum has grown from humble beginnings to something of international stature,” said Mr. Fetridge.

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