Tall ships expected to draw 250,000 to Duluth

Aerial Lift Bridge
In this file photo, Duluth's Aerial Lift Bridge can be seen behind the sails and masts of the U.S. Brig Niagara Thursday, July 29, 2010 during the Tall Ships Duluth festival in Duluth, Minn.
MPR Photo/Derek Montgomery

Duluth's Tall Ships Festival begins today, bringing nine replicas of historic sailing ships to the lakefront -- and a significant economic boost to the city.

At least 250,000 people are expected to visit during the five-day festival, delivering an estimated $15 million boost to the city, Visit Duluth chief executive Terry Mattson said.

"Probably even more important is the tidal wave of publicity that we receive," he said. "It resonates for years after the event."]

The Duluth festival is part of a Tall Ships Challenge series of races and festivals across the Great Lakes this summer, including a commemoration of military events of the War of 1812.

"In the 1800s you could see ships like this out in the lake and in the harbor on a regular basis," Mattson said. "But to have nine historic vessels sailing under the Aerial Lift Bridge simultaneously is, for a lot of people, going to be a once in a lifetime experience."

About 1,500 tourists will embark on two hour sails. Others will tour the ships on shore.

The festival starts this afternoon with a Grand Parade of Sail, where the historic sailing ship replicas glide into Duluth Harbor.

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