If you’ve ever looked out at an orange and purple summer sunset over Lake Erie and imagined yourself catching the wind and sailing off, you just might be able to do it — even if you don’t have access to a sailboat.
This summer, the city of Cleveland — in collaboration with Cuyahoga County, Downtown Cleveland Alliance (DCA) and Destination Cleveland — will welcome the 2019 Cleveland Tall Ships Festival to our lakefront. It all starts just two days after the MLB All Star Game, on July 11, with the Parade of Sail and opening reception to welcome 10 majestic ships to our city.
The 2019 Cleveland Tall Ships Festival will run from Friday, July 12, through Sunday, July 14. It is projected to attract 60,000 people to our lakefront across its three-day run. Some of those folks will be able to board and sail on three ships, including the Inland Seas, Appledore IV and Appledore V.
“We welcome the Tall Ships Festival back to Cleveland, as well as the opportunity to show visitors from around the world all that Cleveland has to offer,” says Mayor Frank G. Jackson, city of Cleveland.
“The return of Tall Ships is a great example of community collaboration, and Destination Cleveland is pleased to support the effort,” says David Gilbert, president and CEO, Destination Cleveland. “Our research shows that events are the second-largest draw for visitation to Cleveland and Cuyahoga County, and the 2019 Cleveland Tall Ships Festival will give both visitors and residents another reason to come downtown and explore what the city has to offer.”
It’s the first time the event has been in Cleveland since 2013.
“Complete with tours and ‘sail aways,’ the 2019 Cleveland Tall Ships Festival will be a fun and interactive way to showcase our waterfront to Clevelanders and visitors,” says Joe Marinucci, CEO and president, DCA. “We’re fortunate and excited to welcome this prestigious event back to downtown Cleveland.”
The Tall Ships Festival made regular visits to our city through the 1990s and 2000s. Bringing back the festival, which is so well-suited to our lakefront, was no small task. Today, the annual festival rotates through the East Coast, Gulf Coast and Great Lakes, meaning it can only visit our city once every three years. So, what happened in 2016?
“They came in 2010 and back in 2013,” says Marinucci. “Unfortunately, the dates that were available in 2016 were literally just a week prior to the Republican National Convention.”
At that time, the previous producer of the festival no longer felt it was capable of staging the event. And the DCA was too heavily involved with the RNC to be brought in at the last minute.
“So, they held a smaller version in Fairport Harbor in 2016,” says Marinucci.
That started the ball rolling to bring the event back to our lakefront, where it belongs.
“We brought together a number of strategic partners, including the city, county, the Port Authority and Destination Cleveland,” says Marinucci. “We all came to the conclusion that it would be a good idea to bring the Tall Ships back to Cleveland in 2019. So, the Alliance, along with Destination Cleveland, took a leadership role in bringing the festival back. We want to create a precedent, where we will be able to bring them back every three years, making Cleveland a regular destination for the Tall Ships Festival on the Great Lakes.”
Bringing 60,000 people down to experience the lakefront should also prove to be an economic boon for the city.
“We want to get 60,000 people to come down, touch our waterfront and experience it in a very unique way,” says Marinucci. “A lot of the folks that come down will probably stay in a hotel room, visit the science center and [Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum], and maybe even go to dinner.”
Not to mention the hundreds of crew members and other festival officials.
“At the end of the evening, hopefully they will be able to enjoy some of the amenities of downtown,” adds Marinucci. “And if they enjoy themselves, they are sure to spread the word in other ports that they visit.”