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Ales for Sails fundraiser at the Bayfront Maritime Center


Jamie Pierce

Erie, Pa.,_Recently I attended a wonderful event for a wonderful cause: The Bayfront Maritime Center’s 3rd Annual Ales for Sails in Erie, PA.

Ales for Sails is exactly what it sounds like; a fundraiser where you drink beer and support sailing projects.

You might be asking yourself, “Why would I support an event that sponsors rich kids’ sailing hobbies?” You wouldn’t. And I wouldn’t support that decision either. That’s not what happens at the Bayfront Maritime Center.

The BMC is actually a community non-profit that teaches boating and maritime trades. Their mission states they seek to “design and implement engaging, hands-on, maritime-themed educational, vocational and recreational opportunities for the community in a universally accessible waterfront facility.”

To put it lightly.

The BMC serves as a community resource, educating and aiding anyone who wants to learn.

The largest part of their outreach is targeting at-risk youth in the community; perhaps those in danger of not graduating high school, or who would never be afforded apprentice opportunities due to income.

Not only do they have partnerships with the Erie Public School District and Sara Reed Children’s Center, they also host an after school program entitled “ProjectSAIL” (Successful Apprenticeships and Investments in Learning), as well as incorporating STEM activities (Science, Technology, Engineering, & Math) into projects completed on site.

So, in case you missed that, the BMC teaches kids to build boats… I SAID BOATS!

ac JP ac FB cutline boat display1892

(The best thing I’d built at 15 was a CD mixtape alternating Beatles’s “deep tracks.”)

So, yeah, it’s a really great organization doing great things in the Erie, PA.
So when I was offered the chance to attend the Bayfront Maritime Center’s 3rd Annual Ales for Sails (A4S) fundraiser, I was totally on board.

A4S itself is a Beerfest supported largely by community businesses. 
Some of the best area micro-breweries donated kegs for the cause, including
VooDoo Brewery of Meadville, PA
Timbercreek Tap & Table of Meadville, PA 
The BrewErie at Union Station of Erie PA 
Erie Ale Works of Erie PA 
Erie Brewing Company of Erie PA
Lavery Brewing of Erie, PA
The Blue Canoe Brewery of Titusville, PA and
Rivertowne Brewing of Verona, JP ac FB cutline balcony view1885


The unlimited, delicious appetizers and hors d’oeuvres were supplied by Stephany’s Grove & Catering, a staple of Erie since the seventies.

Once attendees were ushered into the BMC’s learning facility where the event was held, they were welcome to eat and drink ’til their heart’s content (er, until visibly intoxicated). Then most importantly, they learned about the work of the BMC. From asking the numerous staff on hand to taking a ride on the 3-D Maritime Simulator, learning opportunities were presented around every corner.

The most alluring part of the of event was the non-stop energy in the room; you could tell everyone was excited about the cause. (The beer may have helped.)ac JP ac FB cutline jamie in photo1891


Alongside the dedicated Bayfront Maritime Center staff were dozens of community volunteers; from Gannon students to supporters of the BMC to AmeriCorps VISTA members, all hands were on-deck. The event was actually dreamed up by the BMC’s AmeriCorps VISTA. Similar to the Peace Corps, VISTA stands for Volunteer In Service to America, a program of professional volunteers who work to build the capacity of non-profit JP ac FB cutline women ipads1894


Did I mention A4S sells out every year? So, you should pencil in next year’s event now.
That’s Friday, February, 5, 2016, tickets go on SAIL early.

So really, today was a chance for me to brag about a cool non-profit that holds cool fundraisers. Nothing more. But I highly suggest you check out this event next year. And if you visit the site, you can play “Where’s Waldo?” with Jamie Pierce! I’m secretly hidden in the background of lots of the photos.

Ales for Sails

For that matter, check out all the other great work BMC does year round.

(The Cardboard Boat Regatta is one of the funniest events I’ve ever seen!)

If you believe in the work they do, consider becoming involved in the mission of the BMC.


For more on the local AmeriCorps VISTA project, Lake Effect Leaders, visit:

Signing off,

-Jamie Pierce

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