VALLEJO — The sun was beaming and weather was mild Saturday, making it the perfect day for visitors throughout the Bay Area to visit Mare Island.
The 2013 Flyway Festival offered indoor and outdoor tours of the old naval shipyard, as well as an array of hikes and outings at various locations around the region.
Many of the events and tours featured wildlife, hence the name of the event. The event takes place during peak migration when more than 1 million shorebirds and hundreds of thousands of waterfowl migrate through the San Francisco Bay.
When visitors weren’t bird watching, they were soaking in the history of the 159-year-old naval yard.
One of the island’s oldest historical buildings is the St. Peter’s Chapel, built in 1901. The exterior of the chapel is unassuming and small, but the inside of the church tells a different story.
Dotty Schenk, the organist and tour guide of St. Peter’s Chapel, said the church is the oldest surviving Navy chapel in the country. It was built as a nondenominational church, serving both Catholics and Protestants.
Twenty-five of the church’s stained glass windows were created by Tiffany Studios One. Sixteen were signed by the artist, Louis Comfort Tiffany. The ceilings are covered in placards honoring the dead, including President John F. Kennedy, the missing crew of the USS Thresher and soldiers killed in World War I.
Schenk plays the pipe organ at special events at the church. The organ, built in 1923, is the oldest in Solano County. Schenk did not hesitate to demonstrate the beauty of a pipe organ to visitors. The sounds and vibrations could be heard and felt outside the church.
Michael Staciel and Joyce Scharf listened to the music outside while watching monarch butterflies swarm the trees near the church. For them, Mare Island held a great deal of memories. Both worked on the island before the shipyard was shut down in the 1990s.
Back then it was constantly busy and noisy, congested with traffic and people, they said. By around 1995, after the shipyard was closed, Staciel said the island was eerily quiet.
Scharf worked across the street from the chapel. She remembers coming outside during her breaks, sitting on the grass by the church and eating lunch as she watched the monarch butterflies swarm.
“It’s so different from what is was,” Scharf said.
The Flyway Festival continues Sunday. Go to http://mareislandpreserve.org for a complete look at Flyway Festival events.
Reach Heather Ah San at 427-6977 or [email protected] Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/HeatherMalia.