The Boarding Party will be among dozens of local musicians appearing at Saturday's mini-folk festival at George Mason University's George Mason Center in Arlington. Well, most of the Party: Dave Diamond is working in the American Embassy in London and Casey King has been in Saudi Arabia for the last year.

But Tom McHenry, Jonathan Eberhart and Bob Hitchcock will unleash a host of virile sea chanteys (the bulk of their material) and what McHenry describes as "music from the waters of home--the Chesapeake Bay, the Eastern Shore, even the C & O Canal. We've sort of taken the canal on as a project, collecting and looking for C & O Canal songs. We've found a few, very few." The songs range from what the mule drivers might have sung while hauling barges to evocations of life in and around the canal. "There's one that describes the bars you can stop in going down the canal to Georgetown; at one time there were probably more of those than there are locks."

As for songs from the bay, "we've been very fortunate to find some real fine ones. We have one oyster-dredging song that a friend sent us the words to and we put it to a traditional tune. But by and large, the singing that would have been done there either didn't exist to any great extent or it was never written down."

The Boarding Party will perform at a 3:30 workshop, one of more than 40 workshops and mini-concerts (encompassing old-timey, bluegrass, ethnic and the blues, and instrumental and folk dance demonstrations), all taking place in six locations between 1 and 6:30 p.m. Other performers include Joe and Kathy Hickerson, John Jackson, Helen Schenyer and Madeleine McNeill. There's also a square dance and an evening concert with Ed Trickett, The 4:30 Crowd, Laura Laning and Bob Clayton. Admission is $6 for the whole day, or $4 for each half (kids 3 to 14 are half price). For information, call 281-2228.