Arts and Entertainment

Greenbank's Shanty Fest does nautical music; makes medical miracles

The Seattle duo William Pint and Felicia Dale will sing songs honoring those who live and work on the sea.  - Courtesy photo
The Seattle duo William Pint and Felicia Dale will sing songs honoring those who live and work on the sea.
— image credit: Courtesy photo

A unique festival for unique causes.

This month, the Greenbank Farm will host Whidbey’s second Shanty Fest starring the Shifty Sailors and six other musical groups from both on and off island.

The money from the two-day festival will be divided among Small Miracles in Coupeville, Medical Safety Net of North Whidbey and Friends of Friends on South Whidbey. These three all-volunteer organizations are dedicated to raising and distributing money for medical-related expenses for Whidbey residents who cannot afford the costs themselves.

According to Small Miracles board member and Shifty Sailors leader Vern Olsen, in 2010 the groups provided nearly $100,000 worth of care.

“There’s never enough money to serve people who are in emergency situations or need help with their medical bills,” Peggy Tyson, Medical Safety Net of North Whidbey president, said. “We are getting more and more calls from people.”

Last year, the inaugural Shanty Fest on Whidbey raised about $2,000 for Hearts and Hammers, the local nonprofit that aids residents who can’t afford necessary home repairs. This year, Olsen said he wants to do better. He’s hoping to raise at least $3,000 so each of the organizations will receive $1,000.

The festival will kick off Friday night, Jan. 21 at 7 p.m. with performances by the Shifty Sailors, Rural Characters and Halyards, all local musicians. Saturday’s concerts will be led by off-island groups Broadside and the Handsome Cabin Boys, J.W. Sparrow and Pint & Dale, with continued performances by the Shifty Sailors. Both nights will end with grand finale sing-a-longs featuring well-known nautical numbers.

During the day on Saturday, a number of song sessions will be offered by the musicians starting at noon. There will be sessions for children and themed instruction. Additionally, Whidbey Pies and Cafe will be open offering baked goods, the farm will be selling its traditional beers and wines and the Island County Historical Museum will be on site with hot dogs.

Olsen said he’s excited about the event and hopes to extend invitations to shanty groups from all over the country for next year’s festival.

“The chamber of commerce is really excited about it because it would be highlighting the island in a time when we don’t have a lot going on,” Olsen said. “I think it’s really going to grow. Hopefully it’s a forever thing.”

Tickets to the festival per night are $20. Each of the Saturday song sessions costs $5, but four sessions can be purchased for $10. A combination Shanty Fest ticket which includes two night concerts and four sessions can be purchased for $30.

Tickets are available at Wind & Tide in Oak Harbor; Bayleaf in Coupeville; the Wine Shop at the Greenbank Farm; BookBay in Freeland and Moonraker in Langley. Or, call 1-800-838-3006 or visiting

All three of the community medical help groups will also be at the festival with information about their programs.

“I don’t know anywhere else in the country that has services like this,” Olsen said. “It’s a really neat thing. This whole community is amazing.”

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