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Tall Ship Celebration Weekend Draws Thousands

July 16, 2016       Leave a Comment
By: Stephen Kent

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The huge crowds at Tall Ship Celebration on Saturday, July 16 were no surprise to anyone. It's always like this when great weather and beautiful ships draw people not just from the surrounding communities, but from all over Michigan and even from out of state. It's hard to pass up an opportunity like this, especially since it comes only every three years.

The East side is host to the big ships while those a little smaller are found on the West side. With the world's largest Viking ship Draken Harald Harfagre on the West side and the huge and unique Spanish ship El Galeon Audalucia on the East side, the two first time visitors made trips to both sides worth the time and effort.

Tall Ship Celebration is one of the best run events of this kind in the state. Bay Sail, the sponsoring organization, pulls together volunteers from the entire community. After a dozen years, the committees know what needs to be done and they cover every contingency. Volunteer Ship Liaison officers, usually one or more couples, take care of anything their ship's crew might need. Entertainment in the form of music, performances, and activities are found throughout the parks. Security is coordinated by the Coast Guard with help from every branch of law enforcement. And then there's the food, and more food, and snacks, and, and, and, maybe it's time to go back down for just one more funnel cake.

Capt. Fishbones
Throughout the park there were Pirates, even Pirate families. You might think these folks were on someone's paid staff (and some were), but many were just people who love to dress up and re-enact the part. It you were in the right spot, you probably saw Jack Sparrow. But you may also have run into Billie Beach, or Capt. Fishbones. This reported could hardly talk to those folks because people kept wanting their picture taken with the pirate.

Parking for such a huge attraction is always a problem. A number of lots were provided around the area and Bay Metro Transit was on hand to provide free shuttle service between parking lots and the riverfront.

Lines seemed like a challenge to some folks, but most moved quickly. The exception might be the El Galeon Audalucia. That was the longest line and it snaked back and forth through the park. At some times the wait was up to three hours. But the visit to that majestic ship was worth that wait.

There's one day left in the weekend and the Tall Ship Celebration. With another great day forecast, Bay City looks forward to welcoming another record turnout.

Bay Metro Transit's Vicki Stratton manned the bus entrance for the entire day.

David Reynolds takes a quick peek inside purses and other bags as people head for the entrance gate.

The gates were busy all day.

For Billy Hedrick peeling onions must seem like a never ending job.

There's nothing like carnival food! The large area in front of the fountain was filled with everything from BBQ, chicken, sausage, fries, grilled veggies and, our favorite, "Elephant Ears"

If Capt. Fishbones were transported from the early 1800's to THIS event, would he be able to choose the what to eat? Mike Michilli, his daughter Ashley and wife Linda were just visiting for the day, but they came in full costume, and one little kid after another (and more than one grown kid) wanted to get his or her picture taken with the Captain.

Angelique Babcock, Jeremy Coleman and Alandras Coleman pose for pictures. The three came from Millington for the day and dress up for the fun of it. That doesn't stop people from asking for pictures.

Long lines were a way of life if you wanted to tour the most popular ships. The line for El Galeon Audalucia stretched from the Doubletree into the park then back and then to the boats. The wait was up to three hours. But that didn't keep anyone from giving up.

Nothing could happen without the many volunteers. Konnie Gill from McLaren Bay Medical Foundation was helping in the VPI tent.

Groups from around the world were on hand to perform. After singing, Jerry Casault, the guitar player, said "I looked down and a lady bug was walking up the neck of my guitar". The man next to him leaned over to the mic and said "yeah, and his guitar has red spots too."

End of the wait as visitors board the Mist of Avalon.

The most popular ship, El Galeon Audalucia, towers over everyone.

At the end of a long wait, volunteer Rich Milster lets the next group board the El Galeon Audalucia.

In a ship-side tent, kids color numbered squares that, when posted to the wall in back will form a large picture like the small version on the table. When completed (and this is the second one), the piece will be hung in the Children's Museum of Saginaw.

Some things are not expected. A visitor let crew member Hope Collins hold her dog "Moog". Other crew of the Brig Niagara (left to right) are Emily Hoffman, Andy Verras, and Alethea Boarden

Visiting the ships was a real treat for 91 year old Sooren Gozmanian, a Navy Veteran who served in France during WWII.

At the end of the line visitors board the U.S. Brig Niagara.

Which ship do you want to tour? There are just a few people ahead of you.

Matthew Kent, 4th Mate on the Niagara, shows the worlds tiniest sail boat. An experienced sailor of eight years, Matthew plans to sail this tiny craft solo from Africa's Canary Islands to Florida in the Spring of 2017. At just 3.5 feet long, a successful voyage by the "Undaunted" will break the 1996 record set in a 5 foot boat. Proceeds from "The Little Boat Project" will help support The BioReserve, a research and educational program.

The view from above... pedestrians and cars cross Veteran's Memorial Bridge.

Water side view

A constant parade of pleasure craft looked at the ships from the water.

The small Viking boat crosses the river

Panorama from the bridge

Nighttime offers a whole different view of the ships. The crowds are gone, the air is still. Music and voices drift across the river from the crew entertainment tents on the far side. Low voices and laughter is heard occasionally from the ships nearby. A peaceful end to a very busy day.

The Viking boat rocks gently in the water.

The promenade, so packed during the day, is silent and empty by night. >El Galeon Audalucia stands watch over the waters.

Crew, like teens everywhere, work their cell phones in the still night air.

5087, 7775, 7776

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Stephen Kent

Steve Kent and his family have lived in Bay City for 40 years. He is VP of Technical Services at MMCC which produces MyBayCity.Com. Kent is active in many Bay City civic organizations.

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