Concert boat moors at Pahokee Marina

PAHOKEE — Point Counterpoint II, the world-famous floating concert hall designed by the late master architect Louis Kahn and constructed for the United States’ Bicentennial in 1976, moored at the city marina last week, and plans are being shaped for it to stay there permanently.

Formerly homeported in Talinn, Estonia, and having traveled more than a half-million miles around the world over the past four decades, the 195-foot-long, double-hulled vessel housing an acoustically engineered concert hall arrived late Tuesday night, Aug. 14, from Ottawa, Ill., at its new home in Lake Okeechobee’s quiet waters on Palm Beach County’s so-called “other coast.”

Special to the Okeechobee News/Courtesy of AWSO
A performance aboard the Point Counterpoint II entertains a crowd in Dordrecht, Netherlands, in 1989. In Pahokee, the floating concert hall (shown with its top open) is undergoing renovations and soon will be the setting for sunset concerts on Lake Okeechobee.

The lakefront soon will have a claim to fame incorporating art, education, history, music, theater and live band, orchestral and theatrical performances that, it’s hoped, will rival the Atlantic coastal beaches’ allure and give Big Lake regional tourism a high-pitched electric jolt.

The Point Counterpoint II (PCII for short) soon will be open to the public and hosting concerts or live theater on performance nights, when it will move into open waters and anchor just offshore from the newly renovated Pahokee lakefront park facilities and the Herbert Hoover Dike. The grassy dike and linear park will serve as the amphitheater, letting spectators enjoy live music from orchestras and other performers on the ship’s bandshell-like stage.

The grand, silver 38-foot-wide vessel, which also has an art gallery, small theater and crew accommodations on board, is owned by Robert Boudreau of Mars, Pa., who in 1957 founded the American Wind Symphony Orchestra (AWSO) that has performed for decades on board the ship.

Now in his 90s, Mr. Boudreau long has encouraged music education through his work, having commissioned over 400 new classical compositions and consistently populated the orchestra with young professional musicians, numbering more than 1,500 since 1976. “This is my 61st year as the founder of the orchestra, and … the floating arts center was built in Norfolk, Virginia, by Tidewater Corporation for a tour of 76 cities during the Bicentennial,” he said.

Special to the Okeechobee News/Courtesy of AWSO
The Point Counterpoint II (foreground) visits Tampa Bay in 1976, its debut year, during its tour of 76 U.S. cities in honor of the Bicentennial.

His intent in bringing the boat to the small City of Pahokee, isolated as it is from the tourist-rich beaches and barrier islands lining the megalopolises of Southeast Florida, is to bring a much-needed boost to the Glades region’s cultural, economic, educational and tourism prospects. Mr. Boudreau hopes to open a new pathway for artistically and musically inclined young people to the nation’s best institutions of higher learning.

He is working closely with Pahokee Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Regina Bohlen, who is relieved that the PCII is finally here and excited by the possibilities it poses.

“My involvement in it is that, over the summer while I was off, I worked on trying to get it here,” she said. “We’ve been working on it since like October, trying to get it down here, and finally it was on its way. This is a world-famous barge … so we’re really hoping that the tourism for that will have a very positive effect for Pahokee.”

Mr. Boudreau and his wife, Kathleen, came to Pahokee this week to meet with local officials, investors and educators about future plans for the Point Counterpoint II. Ms. Bohlen already has started a Gofundme page for the PCII and its resident orchestra but, she added, could not say what eventually might happen as to ownership of the vessel.

“The boat belongs to Mr. Boudreau and the American Wind Symphony Orchestra, so whatever they decide to do with it is what they will do. I think everything is up in the air at this point, exactly how all of that’s going to work,” Ms. Bohlen explained.

Robert Lambert, a partner in Everglades Reserves Holdings LLC — the investment group that is under contract to sublease Pahokee’s lakefront marina, campground and restaurant once the city’s state-financed renovations are complete — said, “Eventually, the city will buy it or we’ll buy it.”

The vessel was transported here from dry dock in Illinois over the past several weeks. Mr. Lambert, who owns Cruise America Associates and is part owner of Okeechobee’s Landing Strip Cafe, said, “It was towed down the Mississippi River all the way to New Orleans, and then a different tow company — and actually I did a little bit of the tow across the Okeechobee Waterway with them — towed it all the way.” He said it is the largest boat ever brought through the waterway, “and this is certainly the largest vessel by far to ever go into the Pahokee Marina.”

He and the ERH partners, including Mark Miller, who lives aboard a boat moored at the Pahokee Marina, have been working on plans to give the PCII a bit of sprucing up. “We’re doing a little remodeling on it … She’s getting a nice paint job and some interior renovations.”

The ship’s future, though, is going to be shaped by whatever arrangements emerge among Mr. Boudreau and the AWSO, the City of Pahokee, the Pahokee Chamber of Commerce and, Mr. Lambert said, potentially Everglades Reserves Holdings (ERH) along with many other local residents, laborers, philanthropists, school authorities and schoolchildren, too.

“We’re getting a lot of interest,” he explained, continuing: “One of the main aspects of this whole plan is to teach some of the local residents, the youth in Pahokee, Belle Glade (and this region) how to play some of these wind instruments. In the past, Mr. Boudreau … has always wanted to do that, and help these kids get scholarships into college. He’s been very successful over the past years.”

Last year, the Point Counterpoint’s success was celebrated with a 60th anniversary tour by the orchestra, which is a woodwinds ensemble using remarkably wide-ranging instrumentation.

Ms. Bohlen, looking forward to collaborating on the boat’s future in Pahokee, said plans might be a little fuzzy right now, but “the main thing is that the boat is here, and everything else’ll get worked out.”

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