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Tall Ships, Large Crowds Flow Into Oswego

By Alma I Hidalgo, Contributing Writer

OSWEGO, NY – A balmy lake breeze blew into Oswego’s historic Maritime District this weekend bringing not only three tall ships, but hundreds of visitors as well.

Jan and Kay Narewski of Pennellville get some information about the Unicorn from crew member Angela Connolly of New Hampshire.
Jan and Kay Narewski of Pennellville get some information about the Unicorn from crew member Angela Connolly of New Hampshire.

The West First Street Pier welcomed The Pride of Baltimore ll, America’s Privateer Lynx, and The Unicorn to the Port City’s first-ever Festival of Sail.

Close to 800 people attended the opening of the three-day festival on Friday morning, according to Mercedes Niess, executive director of the H. Lee White Marine Museum. The crowd continued to be large throughout the day.

They are expecting about 6,000 visitors over the weekend, she added.

A few pesky showers did little to dampen people’s spirits on Saturday.

“I enjoyed the Festival of Sail and the nice weather,” said Pat Reney of Syracuse. “It’s also very family-oriented. Grandpa and our two granddaughters came with us. We also loved the pirate show.”

A couple of pirates - Steve Whetzel, right, and Michael Wengenroth engage in a "sword fight" with Oswego's historic lighthouse in the background.
A couple of pirates - Steve Whetzel, right, and Michael Wengenroth engage in a "sword fight" with Oswego's historic lighthouse in the background.

Members of the Shadow Players pirate stage combat group performed several times during the festival.

Tom Lowe of West Amboy took part in one of the group’s exhibitions. He volunteered to hold several straws in his mouth, while one of the pirates cut them up – using a whip.

The tall ships were the highlight of the festival for many.

“I think I was born in the wrong century,” said Mary from Syracuse. “The ships are amazing, so romantic. The pirate show was also very entertaining.”

“I think the ships are very interesting. I went inside the Baltimore and the Unicorn,” said Sylvia Allen while sitting with her family.

They plan to make their own sail-away after visiting the tall ship.

Helen Ross, left, and Angela Connolly of the Unicorn take time to pose for a photo.
Helen Ross, left, and Angela Connolly of the Unicorn take time to pose for a photo.

“The ships were very beautiful, very well maintained,” added Suzanne Witmer.

“So far, the event looks good,” said Marilyn May of Syracuse. “We love wooden boats. The music would be better if it wasn’t so loud, it is kind of distracting.”

Radio Disney provided the musical entertainment. Children and anyone interested got the opportunity to step up on stage to dance, including the Macarena and the Electric Slide.

“This is the first time we came to this,” said Larry Petersen of Red Creek. “This is great. Hopefully they’ll do it again next year.”

Children also got the opportunity to win prizes every 15 minutes throughout the entire festival.

Some members of the Sea Cadets join others on the Disney Radio Stage to do the Electric Slide.
Some members of the Sea Cadets join others on the Disney Radio Stage to do the Electric Slide.

The event was filled with different family activities including the opportunity to win a variety of prizes.

Events like the Sailors’ Sail Treasure Hunt, gave youngsters the opportunity to learn about the maritime history of the area and win prizes as well.

Organizations such as the Oswego City-County Youth Bureau, the Oswego Sea Cadets and Sea Scouts assisted youngsters with the treasure hunt and various other activities at the Maritime Village hosted by the Oswego Maritime Foundation.

Alex Peacock takes care of a task aboard the Lynx at the Festival of Sail.
Alex Peacock takes care of a task aboard the Lynx at the Festival of Sail.

The children had a lot of fun running around trying to figure out the answers to the questionnaire given as part of the treasure hunt.

“The kids ask us questions like a scavenger hunt and we have to answer the question,” explained Nick Grace, a Sea Cadet volunteer. “When they get the correct answer we check it off on their sheets.”

“There will be prizes if they finish the entire thing. And, they will be entered into a drawing to win a video camera donated by Staples, an Ipod donated by Michelle Southgate and a digital picture frame donated by Mydigital discount,” said, Beth Chase, AmeriCorps member at the marine museum and youth activity coordinator for the Festival of Sail.

Businesses, like Cams, Garafalo’s and Wonton House partnered with the event to ensure no one went hungry.

The Witmer family from Henderson Harbor visits Oswego to see the tall ships. The ships were “very beautiful,” they said.
The Witmer family from Henderson Harbor visits Oswego to see the tall ships. The ships were “very beautiful,” they said.

“Business is pretty steady,” said Jason Shi of Wonton House. “There has been quite a lot of people with kids, many of them from Syracuse.”

The Festival of Sails also created a fun and educational program for children to learn about the American and New York State flag. It also gave them the chance to make their family flags.

As part of the event, sail-away rides were hosted by America’s Privateer Lynx. The ship gave people the opportunity to go on a 90-minute ride around Lake Ontario.

Tickets, however, had to be booked ahead.

“They are doing two rides a day,” said Jeff Wallace, festival committee member. “This is the only ship out of the three ships doing the rides; however, the tickets are all sold-out.”

The festival is a great way for the Port City to show off its bountiful maritime history, he pointed out.

One ship that interested many Festival of Sail visitors was the Unicorn.

She is the only all-female crewed tall ship in the world. It gives girls and women leadership sailing opportunities.

Julian Allen, 8, of Minetto, gets into the spirit of the Festival of Sail by having a sailing ships painted on his face.
Julian Allen, 8, of Minetto, gets into the spirit of the Festival of Sail by having a sailing ship painted on his face.

Jan and Kay Narewski of Pennellville enjoyed their tour of the Unicorn.

“This is a wonderful event,” he said. “It was nice seeing all the tall ships together and touring them.”

Emily Gustavsen, spokesperson for the Unicorn, said the ship was built in 1947 from scrap steel of World War II German U-boats that were given to Holland after the war as reparations.

“She was used as a fishing trawler in the North Seas,” she explained. “She was a motor vessel at that point. She was converted into a sailing vessel in about 1973.”

The Unicorn takes high school age girls out for a week and the ship is used as a platform for teaching them life lessons, teamwork, leadership and communications, Gustavsen explained, adding “Those lessons seem to come naturally on a ship.”

They take girls between the ages of 13 to 22; the average age of their students is 16.

“Everyone here is so knowledgeable. You learn so quickly because everything takes place in the ship. I have been involved since June 6,” said Helen Ross a 13-year-old trainee.

Angela Connolly, 15, has been involved in the program for three years.

“This is my third year on the program and the Sisters Under Sail program purpose is to teach girls how to communicate with each other and through the leadership program teach girls everything there is to know of how to find yourself and not be someone you are not,” Angela said. “It is a great environment. It is all girls, no pressure.”

“The crew had a good time visiting Oswego their first night here,” Gustavsen said. “They’re very excited about the ice cream store here where they got real homemade ice cream. It’s been nice. We’ve have had a really great welcome.”

The crew has been sailing for a month. Its final destination is Toronto, Canada.

For more information, any girl interested can go to www.sistersundersail.org

The Festival of Sail wraps up Sunday – Founder’s Day in honor Richard “Dick” Pfund, founder of the Oswego Maritime Foundation.

Saturday was Dunkin’ Donuts Day at the fest.

Anyone with a Dunkin Donuts Card saved $2 at the entrance of the festival.

The event will run from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. at the historic Maritime District, West Pier on Sunday.

1 Comment

  1. I hope this becomes an annual event. It was truly magical! I had a wonderful time, and it looked like everyone else did, too! I know this was a lot of work for all the volunteers (and there were so many of them everywhere!), and I hope they know it was very much appreciated!!!

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