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Festival celebrates Houston Ship Channel centennial

Written by , published September 3, 2014

7831708018 d0c581ceb2 bThe Houston Ship Channel turns 100 this November, and a festival this Saturday will celebrate the legacy and future of the massive 50-mile waterway that connects the Gulf of Mexico and the Port of Houston. The festival is one of several events organized by Promote Houston Ship Channel 2014 to recognize the Houston Ship Channel centennial.

The Centennial Family Festival will be at the Bayport Cruise Terminal in Pasadena, alongside the channel. Events include tours of the ship M/V Sam Houston, a tug-of-war match between tugboats, an antique fire truck, toy sailboats, face painting, treasure hunts, and food vendors. The festival is free, but attendees must pre-register for tickets, which will include a pre-determined timeslot for arrival.

The Houston Arts Alliance is also celebrating the milestone with Stories of a Workforce: Celebrating the Centennial of the Houston Ship Channel. The exhibit details the cultural heritage and lore of the channel and its port, along with the lives of those who worked there over the last century. The exhibit will be displayed at the Houston Public Library’s historic Julia Ideson Building, 550 McKinney Streete, from through January 31.

The Houston Ship Channel was originally created by dredging the city’s natural waterways, including the Buffalo Bayou and Galveston Bay, in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Starting in 1910, the channel was dredged to a depth of 25 feet, allowing large ships to reach the Port of Houston. The Houston Ship Channel was officially opened November 10, 1914, by President Woodrow Wilson, who pushed a button in his office in Washington D.C. to fire a cannon at the turning basin of the channel, designating the waterway as ready for traffic.

The growing oil and gas industry in the region, along with the demand created by the outbreak of World War I, ensured that the channel would stay perpetually busy, and by the mid-1900s the Port of Houston was the highest-trafficked seaport in Texas. The channel is currently dredged at 45 feet deep, with a width of 530 feet, in order to accommodate the ocean’s largest oil tankers. And, the Houston region has surpassed New York City as the nation’s top exporting metropolitan area, according to the port authority. 

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