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Oceanside Harbor Days is a two-day event, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sept. 15-16 at the harbor. Courtesy photo
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Pirates, mermaids, Nail ’n’ Sail highlight Harbor Days

Pirates and mermaids will be out in full force as the annual Oceanside Harbor Days kicks off this weekend.

The two-day event runs from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sept. 15 and Sept. 16 at the harbor. Admission is free and about 10,000 people are expected each day, according to Oceanside Chamber of Commerce Vice President of Marketing Kristi Hawthorne.

Anchoring the event are more than 200 arts and crafts vendors, a beer garden, food court and a pirate village, while the showcase events include two pirate costume contests for kids 12 and under (one on each day) and the ever popular Nail ’n’ Sail, which features boatbuilding and a race.

“This is a family-friendly event,” Hawthorne said.

Harbor Days began in the 1960s before the harbor even existed. The city received word from the state it would be allowed to construct a recreational, small-craft harbor, so the City Council went all in on an event to celebrate its approval.

More than 60 years later, the two-day spectacle draws thousands from all over the county and other parts of the state. And it has grown into the longest-running city-sponsored event, which features Tri-City Medical Center and Benentech as the main sponsors.

And although the pirate costume contest is reserved for kids, everyone is encouraged to dress as their favorite buccaneer, Hawthorne said. But the fun doesn’t stop there.

She said the U.S. Navy will showcase its Landing Craft Air Cushion amphibious vehicle. It will land between 6:30 and 7 a.m. on Saturday, then depart around 4:30 p.m.

“It’s a large hovercraft,” Hawthorne said. “If you’ve never seen it land or leave Harbor Days, it’s pretty amazing. The Navy has been a part of Harbor Days for at least 20 years.”

On Sunday, meanwhile, the Tiki swim features 500 swimmers competing in either a 1.2-mile or 2.4-mile swim into the harbor.

Also, the Nail ’n’ Sail event kicks off at 10 a.m., where competitors are given a limited set of supplies to build a boat to race across the harbor. The race begins at 2 p.m. and competitors must go down and back for a successful run. However, the race will begin at the boat launch ramp this year, Hawthorne said. Lifeguards are present during the races.

“Teams are given a set amount of materials and time in which to build a boat,” Hawthorne said. “Two people are selected to man the boat and paddle across Oceanside Harbor and back without sinking. It’s always a crowd favorite.”

Although parking may be difficult to find, Hawthorne said people can park at the Oceanside Transit Center and ride an English bus (double decker) to the front of the event for free.