Tall Ship Celebration Returns to Saginaw Bay
By Christopher Nagy
Once again, the ship is going to hit the fans when the Tall Ship Celebration marks its seventh voyage to the Great Lakes Bay region this summer.
The popular triennial maritime festival is gathering a fleet from throughout North America to drop anchor in Bay City on July 18-21. The city has served as a host for the Tall Ships Challenge every three years since 2001. As one of 11 host sites on the Great Lakes this year, Bay City remains a friendly and favorite port of call for the event, having earned the distinction of “Port of the Year” four times since the city became a host site – an honor the city has earned more than any other host site in North America.
Shirley Roberts, executive director of BaySail and the producer of the Tall Ship Celebration, estimated that 103,000 guests attended the festival the last time Bay City hosted the event in 2016.
“I like to think many of guests keep coming back because Tall Ship Celebration is a world-class event in the heart of Michigan,” Roberts said. “When you experience our maritime festival, you are experiencing the most-recognized tall-ship festival in all of North America. … In the 20 years since we started offering Tall Ship Celebration, we’ve welcomed guests from almost every state in the country and from more than 30 countries around the world.”
Although international maritime music and a plethora of other family-friendly events are held throughout the four-day festival, most eyes are tuned into seeing the main attractions up close and personal – and Roberts said Bay City offers a unique advantage over other host ports.
“The setting,” she explained. “You can take in all of the ships at a glance because they’re docked on either side of the river and not stretched out over miles. Our event occurs in two city parks, not on paved surfaces in industrial districts. Many of our guests have never been to Bay City before and they are amazed at how easy it is to get here and, when you do get here, how safe, charming and walkable our waterfront community is.”
As usual, the lineup this year is impressive. Returning to Bay City for the first time since a $20 million restoration, Nova Scotia’s famous Bluenose II will be a highlight for guests. The image of the iconic ship graces the Canadian dime and is a faithful replica of the original Bluenose schooner that was launched in 1921 and was undefeated in international racing competition for 17 years.
The Barque Picton Castle will make her way back to Bay City following her seventh world-circumnavigation voyage and the returning Picton Castle will be the largest Class A vessel in the fleet this summer.
New to the 2019 event is the 95-foot Santa Maria, an authentic replica of Christopher Columbus’ flagship. Other featured vessels include the Pride of Baltimore II, a 157-foot Baltimore clipper; Madeline, a 95-foot gaff topsail schooner from Traverse City; St. Lawrence II, a 72-foot brigantine from Canada; the Denis Sullivan, a 137-foot, three-masted schooner from Wisconsin; the Flagship Niagara, a 198-foot brig from Pennsylvania; and Perception, a 68-foot schooner from Traverse City.
Two homegrown favorites will also be part of the Tall Ship Celebration: the 85-foot schooner Appledore IV and the 65-foot schooner Appledore V will offer a full schedule of sail-away trips during the festival. Both are owned by BaySail. The Bay city nonprofit offers experiential educational programs in environment stewardship through sail training voyages and was instrumental in creating the Tall Ship Celebration by bringing the Tall Ships Challenge to Bay City in 2001.
Shortly after BaySail was created in partnership with the Bay Area Convention and Visitors Bureau, we learned of a series of tall-ship races and rallies that was being organized in the Great Lakes by the American Sail Training Association,” Roberts said. “We thought the event would be the ideal platform to promote Bay City’s new tall ship as well as improve the community’s image to a national audience.”
The Tall Ships Challenge is organized by the American Sail Training Association and rotates between the East Coast, West Coast and Great Lakes. Host ports are recruited to produce events that feature a fleet of ships that either race or travel in company from one to another. Other host ports this year include Toronto, Ontario; Buffalo, New York; Cleveland, Ohio; Green Bay, Wisconsin; Kenisha, Wisconsin; Midland, Ontario; Sarina, Ontario; Kingsville, Ontario; Erie, Pennsylvania; and Brockville, Ontario.
Planning the event, Roberts said, is a roughly two-year process as logistics are ironed out and contracts are negotiated with the owners of each vessel. Appearance fees range between $7,000 and $62,500 and will total $257,000 this year. Total expenses to pull off the festival climb much higher, such as the $703,000 it cost to host the Tall Ship Celebration in 2016; however, the event funds itself through ticket sales and corporate sponsorships.
“The companies and organizations that have agreed to invest in Tall Ship Celebration recognize the importance of the event to our community and our region,” said Mary Lou.
Benecke, chairwoman of the Tall Ship Celebration Planning Council. “Representing the state of Michigan to the tall-ship fleet, the other Great Lakes states and the more than 100,000 people from around the world who are expected to attend is a humbling and daunting task. It would not be possible without the strategic investment of our sponsors.”
Major sponsors this year include the Michigan Sugar Co., Consumers Energy, D.H.T., Wildfire Credit Union, Chemical Bank, Amerilodge Group, Ascension Michigan, Huntington Bank, McLaren Bay Region and Independent Bank.
“Bay County residents and businesses look forward to the return of the triennial tall-ships festival,” said Ryan Tarrant, president and CEO of the Bay Area Chamber of Commerce. “Tall Ship has been a tremendous success, bringing in nearly 100,000 visitors and more than $8 million in economic impact to the Great Lakes Bay region in previous years. Here in Bay City, it is the perfect opportunity to showcase our vibrant small-business community, complete with its unique shops, eateries and waterfront views. Shirley and her team deserve a huge thanks for the countless hours spent organizing this incredible event.”
Tickets for the Tall Ship Celebration are available at every Kroger grocer in Michigan. Daily admission tickets are $8 prior to June 30 and $10 after June 30. Tickets give guests access to the festival grounds and the free activities and entertainment that occur throughout the weekend. In order to board and tour the visiting ships, guests need to also purchase a souvenir passport, which are also $8 prior to June 30 and $10 after June 30.
For more information about Tall Ship Celebration or BaySail, visit tallshipcelebration.com or baysailbaycity.org.
If you’ve ever been told you curse like a sailor, it was probably said to you in a disapproving tut-tut tone. However, chances are that you speak like a sailor quite often and don’t even realize it. Here are a few words and terms that have nautical origins:
Dating back to the days when a warship’s cannons were mounted on rollers and tied down, when a cannon became unsecured and started rolling around on deck, it could wreak havoc.
Originally a reference to a ship that was not tilting to one side, today the phrase means steady or balanced.
The figurehead in nautical terms referred to the detailed carving on the front of the ship – the ceremonial figure out front.
Today referring to gossip, the scuttled butt on a ship was the cask where fresh drinking water could be found as well as where sailors would swap stories.
Hand over fist
If you make money hand over fist, you’re accumulating cash at a steady pace. The term’s origins can be found in steadily pulling a rope or climbing a rope on a ship.
Christened in honor of an 18th century British Royal Navy admiral nicknamed by his crew as “Old Grog.” He was known for mixing water with the rum rations of his sailors.
Under the weather
When a sailor was feeling seasick, he was sent below deck to aid in his recovery, hence he was under the weather.