The Festival of Sail Lake Superior featuring tall-masted ships of yesteryear will have a new port of call next summer as the popular maritime-themed event moves from Duluth to Two Harbors.
Duluth has hosted the event five times over the years — most recently in 2019 — but construction of a new sea wall and future event space along the city's waterfront meant the festival needed a new venue.
"Postponing the 2022 event was not an option," Festival of Sail producer Craig Samborski said.
Two Harbors Mayor Chris Swanson offered to host the Aug. 4-7 event, which will feature a record 12 majestic ships docking in the North Shore town of about 3,500 people.
Samborski already had taken a bike ride along Lake Superior in Two Harbors to scope out the area with the idea of moving the event north from Duluth.
"Two Harbors has that wonderful small-town charm yet boasts a stunning, expansive waterfront," Samborski said, noting he will have about 300,000 more square feet for events in Two Harbors than he had in Duluth. Samborski also said he will have about three times as much dock space for ships in Agate Bay than in the Duluth harbor.
"Not to mention the impressive volume of Great Lakes commercial ship traffic to ogle."
Tickets for the sixth-edition festival that is part of the Tall Ships Challenge race series went on sale Friday. Samborski said he experienced stronger opening day sales than at any time the festival was held in Duluth. Though he's cautiously optimistic of high attendance, it's too early to say how many people will show up in August.
"People are hungry to get to fest like this," he said.
In previous years, as many as 300,000 flocked to Duluth to watch the mighty vessels. But those figures included those who jammed the canal piers and adjacent parkland and were not paying customers, Samborski said.
In Two Harbors "there will be lots of room to spread out," he said.
In December, Samborski said he will meet with Swanson and the Minnesota Department of Transportation to work out traffic logistics. There also is a parking plan in development, but it will include spaces at the town's high school and Lake County Fairgrounds. In all, there will be more than 1,500 spaces available.
"We have more than we had in Duluth," he said.
Ticketholders will get e-mail blasts about traffic and parking starting in January, Samborski said.
This year's attractions include onboard tours, day-sails and a grand Parade of Sail. The Agate Bay waterfront will also have a full complement of vendors, artisans, food, music, entertainment and a craft beer garden.
New this year are curated craft whiskey and beer tastings aboard the ships, a VIP area that includes catered lunch and Parade of Sail viewing at Lighthouse Point, early-entry admission, fast passes to skip lines and advanced reservation parking passes.
The main attraction includes historic ships, including the US Brig Niagara, Pride of Baltimore II, Inland Seas, Schooner Utopia, St. Lawrence II (Kingston, Ontario), Nao Trinidad (Seville, Spain), Gerhard Folgero, Sundew, Abbey Road, Schooner Charley, Edna G. and the 2021 winner of the Chicago Yacht Club's Race to Mackinac, Schooner Perception.
Those who care to see the ships from a distance can find viewing opportunities at Gooseberry Falls and other places along the North Shore as ships will sail north from Two Harbors, Samborski said.
In the long run, "those people become our customers," he said.