Algoma to welcome tall ships Tuesday with day of special events
ALGOMA – Sara Krouse believes Tuesday's visit of tall ships to the waters off the city will be more popular than their first visit three years ago.
Certainly, more activities are planned to welcome the ships and send them southward on Lake Michigan, and Krouse said Algoma's event offers a unique viewing opportunity from other tall ship events in the area.
The executive director of the Algoma Area Chamber of Commerce said an estimated 2,200-plus people turned out in 2016 when the grand sailing vessels mustered off Crescent Beach, as they will again this year after departing the Nicolet Bank Tall Ships festival this weekend in Green Bay and the Parade of Sails layover Monday night in Sturgeon Bay, to start their Algoma-to-Kenosha leg of the Great Lakes Challenge race.
The turnout three years ago came for just a few activities, one food vendor (sandwiches from Algoma Fire and Rescue) and no real advertising.
"In 2016, we were astounded by the amount of people who came," Krouse said.
So, when four or five tall ships muster off shore this year, the chamber hopes even more residents and visitors will come out to view the vessels and take part in the increased number of activities on and off the beach.
"I think some people were taken by surprise in 2016. Hopefully this year they're a little more prepared," Krouse said.
The tall ships dock in the downtown Sturgeon Bay channel Monday evening, then are scheduled to depart at about 8 a.m. Tuesday for Lake Michigan. Sailing conditions permitting, they'll muster about a mile off Crescent Beach at about noon, from where the Great Lakes Challenge race starts around 1 p.m.
Krouse said the ships aren't able to dock in Algoma, but she noted that means they'll be at full sail, which they won't be when docked in Green Bay or Sturgeon Bay.
"This is the best chance to see them at full sail," Krouse said. "We saw a lot of photographers here for that in 2016 and we anticipate seeing that again. When they leave here, they're going into deep water, so you won't be able to see them off Manitowoc or Sheboygan counties."
"From what I've heard, they get pretty competitive at the start of a race," said Holly Williams, vice president of events for PMI Entertainment Group, which organizes the area's tall ship events. "It'll be really nice to see them at full sail."
Krouse said she and the chamber have been planning the day's events for about a year, working with community members and other stakeholders. Despite the Algoma visit coming during the day on a Tuesday, Krouse expects there will be plenty of people on hand.
"The tall ships attract an audience from across the Midwest," she said. "We're so fortunate that we live on this large lake that can accommodate this size of a thing. People take off a week, plan vacations around this sort of thing. People here make a day of it."
So, what does the Algoma Chamber have planned to go with the tall ships?
The day's events start at 10 a.m. Tuesday on Crescent Beach and at Yardstick Books, 317 Steele St.
The bookstore will host a program by retired Capt. Bob Desh of the U.S. Coast Guard. Also a former executive director of the Door County Maritime Museum in Sturgeon Bay, Desh will explain the history of a swivel gun or rail gun, a small cannon that was found on naval vessels in the 18th and 19th centuries. He will give firing demonstrations at 11 a.m. and fire gun salutes from about the middle of the beach, near Adams Street, when the ships muster off shore. Desh also will discuss Great Lakes shipping in sailing days and its impact on small ports like Algoma.
The store will have books for sale on tall ships and the Great Lakes, as well as tall ship temporary tattoos.
Beach activities, which run until 1 p.m., will feature beach games, sand toys, duck races and a coloring station with prizes, all on the north side of the beach near Fremont Street. Algoma Public Library will host a beach- and ship-themed story time until 11 a.m. with blankets provided.
Starting at 11 a.m., children can have a picture taken with the 5-foot-tall, inflatable Baby Duck and meet Coastie, a robotic cartoon boat that teaches boat safety.
A Tall Ships Food Mart will offer pulled pork sandwiches, hamburgers and brats served by local nonprofits the Bruemmer Park Zoological Society and Algoma Long Term Care Unit, with The Dough Shoppe selling desserts.
At 1:30 p.m., Yardstick Books hosts a second talk on Great Lakes shipping history with local historian Virginia Feld Johnson sharing stories of the sailing heyday of Ahnapee (Algoma's former name) and the sailors who contributed to the city.
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A local connection comes from an Art in the Schools project associated with the festival. Sturgeon Bay-based sail maker Dorsal LLC donated used sails to eight high schools, including Sturgeon Bay and Algoma, for them to turn into an artistic creation.
The eight art sails will be unveiled in Green Bay, where festival guests can vote on their favorites, with the winning school earning $2,000 for its art department. Afterward, the Sturgeon Bay and Algoma artworks will be shown in their respective cities during their tall ship events.
Door Co. represented among ships
Five of the nine vessels from Green Bay's Nicolet Bank Tall Ships are planning to muster off Algoma:
The U.S. Brig Niagara, a replica of the two-masted relief flagship of Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry;
Pride of Baltimore II, which has covered more than 250,000 nautical miles to 40 countries since its launch in 1988;
Bluenose II, a replica of the original Bluenose schooner that was unbeaten in international sailing races for 17 years after its launch in 1921;
Appledore IV, a vessel operated by BaySail to promote Great Lakes stewardship out of Saginaw Bay on the Lake Huron side of Michigan.
and the Utopia, a 77-foot staysail schooner that isn't taking part in the Lake Michigan race but does have a Door County connection. It was designed by the late Fred J. Peterson, the founder of iconic onetime Sturgeon Bay shipyard Peterson Builders Inc., which built Utopia in 1946.
A year later, Peterson and crew took Utopia out on its maiden sea voyage to the North Atlantic, Mediterranean Sea and the Caribbean Islands. The schooner then set sail on an around-the-world cruise from 1956 to '59 with stops in ports such as the Canary Islands, Havana and New Guinea.
Utopia also has taken part several times in the Chicago Yacht Club Race to Mackinac, the well-known sailing race from the Windy City through Lake Michigan to Mackinac Island, Michigan. The ship has covered an estimated 60,000 miles in its life.
Ellsworth Peterson, Fred's son and successor as Peterson Builders president, owned and skippered Utopia following Fred's death in 1993. In 2016, he donated it to the Inland Seas Education Association, a nonprofit organization based in Traverse City, Michigan, that aims to use education and sailing expeditions "to inspire Great Lakes curiosity, stewardship and passion," according to its website.
For more on the tall ships event in Algoma, visit visitalgomawi.com/tall-ships.
For more on the Sturgeon Bay Parade of Sails, call 920-743-6246 or visit sturgeonbay.net, click on "Events" and "Special Events," then scroll down to the "Nicolet Bank Tall Ships Parade of Sail Salute" tab.
For more on Nicolet Bank Tall Ships in Green Bay, including tickets for ship tours, visit tallshipswisconsin.com.
Contact Christopher Clough at 920-741-7952, 920-562-8900 or [email protected].
This article originally appeared on Green Bay Press-Gazette: Algoma to welcome tall ships Tuesday with day of special events