Tall ships breezing toward Duluth for renewal of popular festival

  • Updated: July 22, 2013 - 3:45 PM

FILE - In a July 16, 2011 file photo The Pride of Balitmore II and the U.S. Brig Niagara pass each other near the Aerial Lift Bridge in the Duluth, MInn., harbor.

Photo: Clint Austin, Associated Press - Ap

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DULUTH, Minn. — The city of Duluth is expecting big crowds for this week's tall ships festival — and that means a big windfall, too.

The festival that opens Thursday is expected to bring in $15 million, with attendance of at least 250,000, Visit Duluth President Terry Mattson told the Duluth News Tribune (http://bit.ly/14ymLj0 ).

That's how many people turned out for the tall ships festival in 2010, when it included nine ships. This year's edition adds a 10th.

The fleet will enter Duluth in a Grand Parade of Sail.

The parade will include vessels familiar to the Twin Ports: the US Brig Niagara and Pride of Baltimore II, replicas of ships from the War of 1812; and the schooners S/V Denis Sullivan and Zeeto, both of which would have been at home on the Great Lakes in the 1850s. Vessels paying their first calls include the Peacemaker, built in Brazil, and the SS Sorlandet, a full-rigged, three-mast ship from Norway.

"For many people this is a once-in-a-life experience," Mattson said. "There is something magical about it."

The nonprofit Tall Ships America organized the 2013 Great Lakes Tall Ships Challenge, which stops in Duluth, and the Tall Ships 1812 Tour. More than 25 tall ships are taking part in the challenge and the tour, with appearances in 22 ports expected to draw millions of visitors.

There is additional interest in tall ships in Ontario and on the eastern lakes because of the bicentennial of the War of 1812, which lasted from 1812 to 1815. In an average year, Toronto might be the only Ontario port hosting a tall ship festival. This year, 17 Ontario ports are taking part.

"For them, the War of 1812 established Canadian-ness," said Patti Lock, director of the Tall Ships Challenge series of events.

The events include the bicentennial of the Battle of Lake Erie, fought near Put-in-Bay on Sept. 10, 1813. In that battle, nine American vessels, including the original Niagara, defeated and captured six British vessels. The battle gave America control of Lake Erie for the rest of the war.

The battle will be commemorated with events from Aug. 29 to Sept. 10. Seventeen tall ships, including several that will be in Duluth, will participate in the bicentennial.

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