By Alma I Hidalgo, Contributing Writer
OSWEGO, NY â€“ A balmy lake breeze blew into Oswegoâ€™s historic Maritime District this weekend bringing not only three tall ships, but hundreds of visitors as well.
The West First Street Pier welcomed The Pride of Baltimore ll, Americaâ€™s Privateer Lynx, and The Unicorn to the Port Cityâ€™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 peopleâ€™s spirits on Saturday.
â€œI enjoyed the Festival of Sail and the nice weather,â€ said Pat Reney of Syracuse. â€œItâ€™s also very family-oriented. Grandpa and our two granddaughters came with us. We also loved the pirate show.â€
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 groupâ€™s exhibitions. He volunteered to hold several straws in his mouth, while one of the pirates cut them up â€“ using a whip.
The tall ships were the highlight of the festival for many.
â€œI think I was born in the wrong century,â€ said Mary from Syracuse. â€œThe ships are amazing, so romantic. The pirate show was also very entertaining.â€
“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.
“The ships were very beautiful, very well maintained,â€ added Suzanne Witmer.
â€œSo far, the event looks good,â€ said Marilyn May of Syracuse. â€œWe love wooden boats. The music would be better if it wasnâ€™t so loud, it is kind of distracting.â€
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.
â€œThis is the first time we came to this,â€ said Larry Petersen of Red Creek. â€œThis is great. Hopefully theyâ€™ll do it again next year.â€
Children also got the opportunity to win prizes every 15 minutes throughout the entire festival.
The event was filled with different family activities including the opportunity to win a variety of prizes.
Events like the Sailorsâ€™ 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.
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.
â€œThe kids ask us questions like a scavenger hunt and we have to answer the question,â€ explained Nick Grace, a Sea Cadet volunteer. â€œWhen they get the correct answer we check it off on their sheets.â€
â€œThere 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,â€ said, Beth Chase, AmeriCorps member at the marine museum and youth activity coordinator for the Festival of Sail.
Businesses, like Cams, Garafaloâ€™s and Wonton House partnered with the event to ensure no one went hungry.
â€œBusiness is pretty steady,â€ said Jason Shi of Wonton House. â€œThere has been quite a lot of people with kids, many of them from Syracuse.â€
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 Americaâ€™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.
â€œThey are doing two rides a day,â€ said Jeff Wallace, festival committee member. â€œThis is the only ship out of the three ships doing the rides; however, the tickets are all sold-out.â€
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.
Jan and Kay Narewski of Pennellville enjoyed their tour of the Unicorn.
â€œThis is a wonderful event,â€ he said. â€œIt was nice seeing all the tall ships together and touring them.â€
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.
â€œShe was used as a fishing trawler in the North Seas,â€ she explained. â€œShe was a motor vessel at that point. She was converted into a sailing vessel in about 1973.â€
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 â€œThose lessons seem to come naturally on a ship.â€
They take girls between the ages of 13 to 22; the average age of their students is 16.
â€œEveryone here is so knowledgeable. You learn so quickly because everything takes place in the ship. I have been involved since June 6,â€ said Helen Ross a 13-year-old trainee.
Angela Connolly, 15, has been involved in the program for three years.
â€œThis 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,â€ Angela said. â€œIt is a great environment. It is all girls, no pressure.â€
â€œThe crew had a good time visiting Oswego their first night here,â€ Gustavsen said. â€œTheyâ€™re very excited about the ice cream store here where they got real homemade ice cream. Itâ€™s been nice. Weâ€™ve have had a really great welcome.â€
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 – Founderâ€™s Day in honor Richard â€œDickâ€ Pfund, founder of the Oswego Maritime Foundation.
Saturday was Dunkinâ€™ 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.