Visitors and suppliers give their opinion on the event

Tall Ships Erie 2022 almost never was.

The four-day maritime festival – which last took place in 2019 and takes place every three years – was in doubt this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The festival wasn’t officially announced until March, just five months before Thursday’s Parade of Sail.

As William Sabatini, Executive Director and Fleet Captain of the Flagship Niagara League said, “The shorter timeline meant less time to get organized.

“We started later in our planning process,” he told the Erie Times-News in an earlier interview. “The pandemic has disrupted everything.

Tall Ships Erie to Stimulate the Economy:What is the financial impact of the Tall Ships Erie Festival on local businesses?

But for all the rush that accompanied it, the festival appeared to show no signs of getting off to a frantic start, starting with a picture-perfect parade of sails on Thursday and a healthy crowd of visitors on Friday boarding ships and strolling through the waterfront.

So, is it a success?

The Erie Times-News spoke with some visitors and vendors on Friday to find out what they think went well and what could be improved.

This is a screenshot from a video of Vivian Ohs, 63, of Johnstown, Cambria County, shown on August 26, 2022 at Dobbins Landing on the Erie waterfront, talking about her experience at Tall Ships Erie 2022.

The plus: VIP access, well-organized and friendly volunteers

Johnston, Cambria County resident Vivian Ohs sat on a bench at Dobbins Landing after seeing almost every tall ship on the waterfront.

At 63, Ohs said she’s been coming to Erie for 54 years and has attended all five Tall Ship Erie festivals. His take on this year’s event was largely positive, but with a small caveat.

“VIP is the way to go,” she said with a laugh. “Parking, refreshments. And I can pretty much get on any ship I want, whenever I want.”

Festival VIP tickets provide visitors with complimentary refreshments and appetizers, as well as VIP line access and parking for the duration of the event, all for $199.

Ohs said the cost was worth it.

“I can park my car all day and then instantly get on a boat – it’s unbeatable,” she said.

Land attractions:Tall Ships Erie 2022: The festival will also feature a variety of land-based attractions

Ohs also praised the ship tours and the organization of the event, as evidenced by the volunteers in blue and green shirts seen guiding visitors around the festival grounds.

“They have a lot of volunteers here and everyone is super nice,” she said.

Chuck Detzel, liaison co-chairman with Tall Ships Erie, said it was difficult to attract volunteers at first, given the tight schedule. But by the start of the festival, enough people had shown up – and it paid off.

“People seem excited to come out after the pandemic,” he said. “The crowds have been fantastic. We have a cloudy day, but they’re still coming out in large numbers. So it’s very rewarding.”

Mazza Vineyards co-owner Kathie Mazza, who manned a vendor booth Friday at the Maritime Market inside the Bayfront Convention Center, also praised the festival’s setup and its distinct focal points at the Bayfront Convention Center. , Dobbins Landing and the Erie Maritime Museum.

“They did a fabulous job,” she said of the organizers. “I’ve met a lot of people from the Pittsburgh area and even people from Ohio and everyone seems very happy. I haven’t heard any concerns or complaints and I’m not complaining about being in line . It’s really encouraging.”

Recommendations: waterfront access, more ships and vendors, upgrade to VIP lines

On Friday, Millcreek Township resident Lisa Fenner walked along the skybridge connecting the Bayfront Convention Center to the Sheraton Erie Bayfront Hotel.

She said it was “the only thing that drives me crazy”.

“Maybe there will be another gateway eventually, but right now there’s no other way,” she said. “There should be some kind of transportation from here to there – maybe with a bus – so you don’t have to wait in an elevator to get up and down.”

Rick Radford of Cranberry Township, Butler County, said the festival was “worth the trip.” But he would like to see more tall ships in the future and, in particular, a tall ship with its sails spread and moving.

“It would be nice if they only had one tall ship going around with all sails up – that would be cool,” he said.

The Empire Sandy, right, and the Nao Trinidad, in the background, sail through the Almost Isle Channel during the Parade of Sail on the Bay of Près Isle, August 25, 2022, which opened the Tall Festival Ships Erie 2022 on the Erie waterfront.

Explore Tall Ships:Tall Ships Erie 2022: explore the tall ships coming to this year’s festival

Mazza said the maritime market was not as crowded with vendors as before.

“It would be nice if they could find more sellers for the market,” she said. “There aren’t many here. I don’t even know if we’re up to 40.”

Mazza said there were around 50 to 60 at previous festivals.

Linda Concilla, jeweler for Samuel Michael Jewelry Collection, is shown, Aug. 26, 2022, talking to a shopper at the Shipping Market inside the Bayfront Convention Center during the Tall Ships Erie Festival.

Linda Concilla, who sold jewelry for Samuel Michael Jewelry Collection at the Maritime Marketplace, agreed and said, “There seems to be more documents and information given by people” instead of sellers.

She added that the festival should have parking or closer shuttle access for vendors. Millcreek Township resident Jim Dewalt said he would like to see an opportunity for general admission ticket holders to use a VIP line if it is empty.

“If there’s nobody in a VIP line, then (the festival) can probably sell passes for $25 or something for us to use a VIP line,” he said.

Dewalt said he waited an hour to board the Nao Trinidad. The ship, which crossed the Atlantic Ocean from Spain, always had the longest queues during the festival.

AJ Rao can be reached at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @ETNRao.

Joseph K. Bennett