Community Steps Up for Morro Bay Maritime Museum

Written by Judy Salamacha

September 25, 2022

Gary Ryan headlines ‘Rock the Waterfront’ hosted by the Morro Bay Yacht Club

In 2016 Morro Bay residents — families, government, businesses, and community nonprofits — stepped up to help fund the first structure built at the Morro Bay Maritime Museum. In appreciation, MBMM remains a membership supported museum free to the public. During COVID, board members wisely energized the outdoor exhibits to make them interactive for residents and visitors even when closed. Now in 2022 the community is stepping up again to raise future expansion funding at “Rock the Harbor” on Oct. 6 and celebrate Morro Bay’s waterfront on Oct. 8 during the free “Maritime Family Fun Day” hosted at MBMM during Morro Bay Maritime Month. This issue’s column thanks all who have donated their time, resources, and talents to support MBMM. Read on as I highlight three such local artists.  

Award winning jazz saxophonist Gary Ryan will headline Rock the Waterfront hosted by the MB Yacht Club ( A catered affair will also offer silent auction items including many day experiences and uniquely designed treasures. I especially wanted to hear Ryan play again. The first festival I attended in Morro Bay was a jazz festival organized by Ryan. Amazing sounds by amazing musicians at three downtown locations.

Who knew the owner of Goofy Graphics also captained the retired Tiger’s Folly, Papagallo and Chablis? He also helped create the Monterey Jazz Festival and earned “Dixeyland Monterey Musician of the Year” performing regularly with Ryan’s Raiders. He’s shared jazz festival stages with Louis Armstrong, Firehouse Five, Dukes of Dixeyland, etc. etc. In the 60s-70s, he toured nationwide with Mike Vax’s Great American Jazz Band.  

Ryan used to play 30 festivals a year, but now chooses to stay closer to home accepting one or two jazz festival invitations annually. “There are Rolls Royce music festivals,” Ryan explained to me back in 2006. “Monterey, Sun Valley, Mammoth Lakes.” New Orleans is a favorite. Ryan is asked to organize and sit-in with the all-stars and is, himself, a is a notable all-star.   

Ryan’s parents started vacationing in Morro Bay in the 1920s. He chose to live here more than 60 years ago. “I love the design challenges at Goofy Graphics and working with my daughter, Gwen. She runs the business and lets me go off and play.” 

MBMM is honored our all-star Gary Ryan agreed to step up for MBMM and play his banjo at Rock the Waterfront 2022. Note: Tickets are limited to 150 and going fast. 

Thirty-five years ago, artist Paula Radke moved from Santa Barbara with her two sons. Life had been on the road at trade shows. She created her first glassworks gallery in Harmony, 1986-92. “It was so much fun there then,” she said. Moving to Morro Bay, her shop was on Main Street until COVID hit, then she made the move to the Embarcadero. 

“I really like being part of the waterfront,” she said, but quickly realized her glassworks art and jewelry wouldn’t fill her Marina Square storefront, so she invited “my artistic friends to join me.” Today Paula Radke Art Glass ( showcases a gallery of 43 artisans. 

“I finally feel at home in Morro Bay,” Paula said. “I love working side-by-side my neighboring shop owners. I’ve found it’s all about the people who walk in and surprise me every day. One day I had a girl looking at a gourd. ‘What is that?’ she asked. ‘My grandmother in Ethiopia had them. I didn’t know I could grow them.” Paula realized her gallery could spark deep connections and even greater treasured memories. 

“I’m always surprised when I hear people talking while still outside looking in. ‘I have to have that piece,’ they’ll say. They won’t ask how much or who the artist is. If what they want is mine, my thoughts go to ‘someone wanted what I created.’ That’s acceptance for an artist.” 

I surprised Paula one day and told her about MBMM’s Maritime Family Fun Day. One of the events is a blueberry muffin blind tasting contest among four local bakeries. I asked her if she might design and donate the perpetual trophy. “Yes,” she instantly agreed. “I could have some fun with this.” 

Her amazing blueberry muffin art glass trophy is ready for display at the winning Morro Bay bakery. Staff will enjoy a year’s worth of bragging rights. The contest is open to the public from 11:15 to Noon. Taste all four samples for $1 donation to MBMM. Then vote your favorite and meet-up with artist Paula Radke who will present the winner with her blueberry muffin art glass creation. 

Aimee Brantley and Shell Vorhees, owners of The Ugly Mug Ceramics on Main Street, attended school together in Fresno and spent quality time at Aimee’s parent’s vacation home in Morro Bay. Both shared careers with Pepsi Cola of Fresno then discovered their future passion creating ceramic art. They studied weekends at Cuesta College workshops. 

Once retired in Morro Bay, they qualified to show their ceramic creations at Art in the Park. They created in a warehouse on Quintana. During COVID, they noticed their coveted Main Street storefront was available. With retirement savings and help from parents, Dan and Kay Brantley, they remodel and opened October 10, 2020. ( 

“We’ve had such a good reception from our experienced business neighbors who help us navigate being a new business in Morro Bay,” said Aimee. “Newer businesses have joined downtown. It feels good that there are others. We’re learning together. We love to hear customers tell us they feel our shop has good energy. When locals find us for the first time, they’ll say how glad they are we are here.” 

I was one of the locals to feel their creative energy and knew they produced ceramic bowls so I asked if they might craft a trophy chowder bowl for the Maritime Family Fun Day Clam Chowder Contest. 

 “Of course, that would be fun,” they instantly agreed. They have created more than a clam chowder bowl. It is a work of art showcasing Morro Bay’s waterfront. “It was the first project we literally designed and worked hands-on together,” they said, proud to participate. 

Shell and Aimee will present their trophy to the winning Morro Bay restaurant for 2022 best chowder. It will be on display for bragging rights for a year. The contest is open to the public from 2-2:45 p.m. A donation of $1 for MBMM buys all four tastes during the blind tasting of clam chowder served up by four of our favorite local first responders, who instantly stepped up.

Musicians, storytellers, shanty singers, oysters and fish tacos, fishy fun and maritime treasure hunts – so many friends of MBMM stepping up to produce this first annual Maritime Family Fun Day on Saturday, October 8 from 10 a.m.- 4 p.m., directly after MB Rotary Club’s 2nd Annual Ducky Derby on Morro Bay. And no surprise, admission is free!

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