Sails to See Festival surprises organizers


By Ron Giofu

Tall ships sailed into Windsor-Essex County over the Labour Day weekend with Amherstburg being one of the four locations visitors enjoyed.

Sails to See1 Sails to See2 Sails to See3Friends Goodwill and the Lynx were docked at Navy Yard Park as part of the Sails to See Festival with tall ships also being docked in Windsor, Kingsville and Pelee Island.

The festival – which also featured fireworks, music, movies, a “Ladies of Amherstburg” re-enactment and “Women’s March” and deck tours – helped commemorate the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Lake Erie.

“This was a big surprise at the number of people that did come out,” said Anne Rota, manager of tourism and culture.

Rota estimated 15,000 people came to town with 7,000 boarding the ships. While organizers prepared for a big number, she said they weren’t sure how many would come given there were three other ports as well as the Harrow Fair on the weekend.

“There was a lot of uncertainty about this particular event,” she said. “We’re very, very happy. There was just so much for people to do within the region and the fact that it was Labour Day.”

Rota believes “people really love coming out to Amherstburg” and said they heard from the ships’ captains that this was “one of the friendliest and prettiest” communities they’ve visited.

“We’re pretty proud of that for our community,” she said.

Rota added that she hopes businesses made out well as well.

“We’re hoping retailers appreciate the visitors that come in,” said Rota. “It definitely has an economic impact for our town.”

Mayor Wayne Hurst said the town was pleased to welcome Friends Goodwill and the Lynx and helped present both captains with “keys to the town.” Hurst said a lot of hard work went into the weekend and that included the work of residents who take “pride and ownership in the town of Amherstburg.”

Hurst added Amherstburg is “a very active community and as active as the river that runs by it.”

Stefan Edick, captain of the Lynx, said the ship usually goes on an annual circuit of festivals with the last two years being devoted to the War of 1812. His ship is based out of Portsmith, New Hampshire though the organization that owns and operates it is out of Newport, California.

“I think being in a community so vested in the War of 1812 is a treat for a ship like ours,” said Edick.

Captain Adele Arlitt of Friends Goodwill noted the South Haven, Michigan-based tall ship was built in River Rouge so it was in “home territory” during the festival.

“It’s fantastic. We’re enjoying visiting Canada,” said Arlitt. “I’m sure it’s going to be one of our favourite ports.”

Arlitt added the original vessel was outfitted with guns that came from Fort Malden.

Those who volunteered and those who visited also enjoyed the weekend.

Anna Simone believed it was nice to see the tall ships visit Amherstburg.

“I think it’s cool,” she said.

“It’s interesting,” added Rachel Parker. “It’s part of our history.”

Parker pointed out she met people from overseas, including some from England.

Olivia Starling noted that it wasn’t just for one particular age group.
“There’s all different ages of people here,” she said. “It’s bringing us together.”

Julia and Don Smith of LaSalle enjoyed their tour of the two ships. It was their initial stop as part of the weekend.

“We just did our first stop and it was fantastic,” said Julia.

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