Sign up for our free weekday bulletin.

Early signs suggest summer ship festival will be tall and large

Published on

Troy Shantz

More than $45,000 worth of tickets to the Sarnia Tall Ships Challenge have already been sold to people as far away as Arizona, North Carolina and Alberta, City Hall says.

Council authorized spending up to $500,000 last week to host the festival, which will see at least six tall ships tie up on Sarnia’s waterfront August 9-11.

If there’s a shortfall, the city will be on the hook for the difference. But parks and recreation director Rob Harwood said he’s confident revenue will meet or exceed the upfront costs.

“It’s just so unique. I think that obviously plays well into the success,” he said.

Sponsorships have also raised more than $70,000 so far and staff is working on government grants that have yet to be announced, Harwood said.

“We’re getting a lot more community support than what was reached out for in the past.”

Another big draw is the fact the tall ship celebration is partnering that weekend with the Bluewater Borderfest music festival and Artzscape by the Bay art show, exposing those who visit to other amenities the city has to offer, he said.

Sarnia Transit is coordinating the required shuttle services and parking, and an online search last week revealed local hotel rooms are filling up quickly, with some already sold out that weekend.

The tall ships, coming from Canada, the U.S. and around the world, are crewed by cadets and civilian enthusiasts under the command of professional captains and sailors.

Those confirmed include the Bluenose II, Picton Castle, Empire Sandy, Denis Sullivan, Fair Jeanne and Appledore IV.

City Hall estimates the festival will generate $3 million in economic activity.

Tickets vary from general admission to an exclusive sail-away aboard the Empire Sandy, a 200-foot schooner that can carry up to 275 passengers.

General admission, single-day tickets are $10, plus HST, and a weekend pass is $16 plus HST.

General admission with a chance to board the vessels is $15, plus tax, or $25 plus tax for the weekend.

They can be purchased online at or at Tourism Sarnia-Lambton, 1455 Venetian Blvd in Point Edward, and at City Hall.

Any excess revenue from the event would be directed to a waterfront development reserve, the city says.

More like this