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Sarnia is a port of call for the 2019 Tall Ships festival

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Troy Shantz

Sarnia is hoping its ship has come in again.

The city has agreed to be a host port for the 2019 Tall Ships Challenge and to underwrite the cost of the visit.

Eight to 10 sailing ships are expected to dock at either Centennial Park or the Government Docks and Sydney Smith Wharf, with crowds of up to 100,000 people able to see and board the majestic vessels, and to meet their crews.

“It’s going to be an enormous amount of work but very worthwhile,” said Rob Harwood, Sarnia’s parks and recreation director.

The city has agreed to underwrite the festival and contribute $30,000 US ($38,589 CDN). Tourism Sarnia-Lambton has agreed to cover one-third of that.

With a budget of about $500,000 the festival could generate $3 million in economic activity for the community, City Hall estimates.

To break even, 33,000 tickets would need to be sold at $15 each. Other sources of revenue include advertising and sponsorships, Harwood said.

If the festival turns a profit an organizing committee could decide what’s done with the surplus, he added.

“It’s a huge thing to orchestrate, and at the end of the day it will be successful because of all of the great community groups that we’re hoping will be engaged in it,” Harwood said.

One idea already being discussed is for the Bluewater Borderfest musical festival to run in tandem with the event.

Sarnia has twice before hosted a tall ships festival, a large one in 2000 and a smaller event in 2003.

“This will be a home run for the community,” said Dave Brown, owner of Bridgeview Marina and co-chair of the 2000 festival.

It drew people of all ages, many out-of-town visitors and posted a surplus of $50,000 to $60,000, he said.

“The fact that the city is behind this is a magnitudinal support factor.”

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.

Toronto and Brockville are the other anticipated Canadian ports of call, along with Buffalo NY, Erie PA, Cleveland OH, Bay City MI, and Green Bay and Kenosha WI.

Eight to 10 of the ships are expected in Sarnia from Aug. 8 to Aug. 12.


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