Photo provided
                                The Shifty Sailors play at the Tall Ship Festival in Riga, Latvia in 2003 aboard the German sailing vessel Seute Deern. Pictured are Jim Amis, Mike Thelen, Wylie Vracin, Karl Olsen, Clarke Harvey, Vern Olsen (accordion), Ray Loe, Bruce Bardwell, Denny Armstrong (guitar), Jack Moeller and Peter Lawl.

Photo provided The Shifty Sailors play at the Tall Ship Festival in Riga, Latvia in 2003 aboard the German sailing vessel Seute Deern. Pictured are Jim Amis, Mike Thelen, Wylie Vracin, Karl Olsen, Clarke Harvey, Vern Olsen (accordion), Ray Loe, Bruce Bardwell, Denny Armstrong (guitar), Jack Moeller and Peter Lawl.

Shifty Sailors celebrating 25th anniversary

The maritime-themed musical group Shifty Sailors will celebrate their 25th anniversary with a concert at 7 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 20 at the Coupeville Recreation Hall.

“Knowing that the group has lasted this long, and knowing how well we get along, is very gratifying,” Shifty Sailors member and director Vern Olsen said in an email. “We have accomplished so much in these 25 years.”

Olsen is one of the founding members of the band when it was formed in 1993 at the request of the Island County Historical Society to promote a local book about early Whidbey Island settlers, titled “Sails, Steamships and Sea Captains.”

“We never stopped singing,” Olsen said.

Today, the group has between 18 and 21 members and Olsen says they draw crowds whenever they sing at festivals.

The theme of the anniversary concert is Thomas Jefferson’s vision of exploring the Oregon Territory and it will honor those who discovered this area by sea, as well as those who have worked here as sailors and fishers.

“They will be performing many of their favorite selections from the past 25 years, and will add a few new ones from their recent tour of the Oregon Coast,” a press release on the concert states.

Several Shifty Sailor members who moved away from the island or retired are returning to be in attendance. Members who have passed away will be honored.

This season, the Shifty Sailors have sung at multiple venues, including Coupeville’s MusselFest, the Penn Cove Water Festival, the Anacortes Waterfront Festival, the Whidbey Island Fair, Port Townsend’s Wooden Boat Festival and the Fishermen’s Fall Festival in Seattle.

“The Shifty Sailors have followed Tall Ship Festivals throughout Europe, performing in Norway, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Germany, Denmark, Ireland, Wales, England, France and, most recently, in the Czech Republic,” the press release states. Other places include a Whale Festival in Hawaii, a Tall Ship Festival in Newport, R.I. and Pacific seaports on the West Coast from British Columbia to California.

Member Fred Wilferth, who sings base, said he wishes he could have joined the group 25 years ago, rather than four.

“It’s been an absolutely fun thing to do,” he said. “It’s a great group of guys.”

He said the anniversary concert should be a good time for everyone.

“If somebody is looking to just absolutely forget about all the stupidity and all the stuff that’s going on in the world around them — if they would like to come to our concert and enjoy themselves for an evening, that’s what we would like to have happen,” he said.

Tickets cost $20 and are available at Click Music and Wind n’ Tide Books in Oak Harbor; bayleaf and Salty Mug in Coupeville; Greenbank Cheese; Freeland Liquor; and Moonraker Books in Langley.

Tickets are also available at www.brownpapertickets.com or by calling 1-800-838-3006. Ages 12 and under are free.

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