Here’s what to expect from this year’s festival

Prepare your sea legs: the tall ships are coming back.

From August 25 to 28, the Erie Tall Ships Festival 2022 will showcase Erie’s maritime heritage, with opportunities to sail and tour majestic tall ships from around the world and enjoy family-friendly attractions on the Erie waterfront.

The festival opens with the Parade of Sail, during which visitors can see the tall ships enter Almost Isle, on August 25 at 4 p.m.

The festival grounds will be open August 26-28, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., at the foot of State Street, at Erie Maritime Museum and Bayfront Convention Center.

Here’s what to expect:

What tall ships are coming?

Seven ships are confirmed to participate in the 2022 Tall Ships Erie Festival.

The ships are:

Only the US Brig Niagara and Lettie G. Howard, which will be moored at the foot of State Street, will be available for day sailings. The others, which will be moored at the Bayfront Convention Center or the Erie Maritime Museum, will be open for deck tours only.

Students board the Great Lakes schooner Denis Sullivan (foreground) September 9, 2016. In the background is the world's largest rubber duck, which is moored near the west basin of Dobbins Landing in the bay of Près Isle.  The duck, which stands sixty feet tall, was on display throughout the 2016 Tall Ships Erie festival.

A big eraser Mom and baby duck – the “world’s largest rubber duck” – will be on display in the harbor area directly behind the Erie Maritime Museum.

More information about the ships can be found on the Tall Ships Erie website at tallshipserie.org.

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William Sabatini, Executive Director and Fleet Captain of the Niagara Flagship League, said he hoped two or three other ships would join the festival, including the Madeline, a tall ship reconstruction of a 19th-century Great Lakes schooner, and the Blue Heron, a research vessel. He said getting the Blue Heron was likely but the Madeline not so much.

He blamed the disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The pandemic has disrupted everything,” he told the Erie Times-News. “We started later in our planning process (of the festival). The ships started later in their planning process. No one has the same number of staff as before the pandemic. So everything has been affected .”

Nine ships participated in the 2019 festival.

Sabatini said he was delighted to see the festival return, given the uncertainty of the past two years.

“Erie deserves to have good things, to have great festivals, to have one of the greatest tall ship festivals on the Great Lakes,” he said. “And we’re very excited to do this work to showcase Erie and show the tall ship world and our entire region what a wonderful place it is.”

What’s new this year?

All ships confirmed at this year’s festival are returning ships. However, the Nao Trinidad, a replica of a 15th-century square sailing ship, built to celebrate the 525th anniversary of the Spanish city of Huelva, will offer a new “interpretation” to visitors, Sabatini said.

“We’ve had Spanish ships here in the past, but this time it’s going to tell the story of Magellan,” he said, referring to Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan who led a Spanish voyage around the world. “They don’t tell the story of Columbus anymore.”

The Nao Trinidad was formerly the Nao Santa Maria and participated in the 2019 Tall Ships Erie Festival.

Crowds fill Dobbins Landing on Almost Isle Bay in Erie on August 23, 2019 during the 2019 Tall Ships Erie Festival.

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Sabatini said the Trinidad crew made some physical changes to the ship to help with interpretation. He encouraged visitors to check it out, considering the ship made a transatlantic journey to get here.

“They left from Spain, the ship actually crossed the ocean,” he said. “The people on board are all very interesting and have lots of great stories to tell.”

As for other activities, Sabatini said the festival will be more family-oriented this year. He said the children’s area had moved to the east end of State Street, closest to the Erie Maritime Museum. Food trucks, live music, entertainment and children’s activities will also be there.

“We really want the festival to be more family-oriented,” he said.

Need tickets?

Tickets are available for purchase online at tallshipserie.org or in person at the Erie Maritime Museum Gift Shop, 150 E. Front St., open Thursday, Friday and Saturday from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Ticket prices range from $10 for a day pass to $199 for a VIP pass.

One-day general admission tickets and weekend passes are available. Both offer all-day access to festival sites, dockside viewing of all tall ships, access to live music and entertainment, educational seminars, children’s activities, local refreshment vendors and the maritime market, according to a press release from the Flagship Niagara League.

Deck tours and day sails for each tall ship are sold separately from passes. Day sails are available for a number of vessels.

Sabatini encouraged the public not to miss the festival.

“When you come to a tall ship festival, you see something you never see,” he said. “You can talk to people who have sailed all over the world, who are doing something really unique. I see tall ships as a sort of portal to the rest of the world. It shows you what’s possible.”

AJ Rao can be reached at arao@gannett.com. Follow him on Twitter @ETNRao.

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