Tall Ship Celebration sails into Bay City this July

Sailing ships, music, spectators, pirates, and more fill downtown Bay City this weekend as the Tall Ship Celebration continues.

The first ships arrived in Bay City at around 2:00 p.m. Thursday, July 18 and the festival continued until 5:00 p.m. Sunday, July 21.

People lined both sides of the Saginaw River to greet the vessels as they arrived Thursday afternoon.

The ships gathered near the mouth of the river on Wednesday night. They cruised into the Saginaw River Thursday afternoon to dock near Wenonah and Veterans parks.

Thursday was a working day for the ships. They open for deck tours on Friday.

Among the ships joining this year’s festival is the Santa Maria, a Spanish-built replica of Christopher Columbus’ flagship making its first voyage on the Great Lakes. Also, the Bluenose II, Nova Scotia’s 143-foot tall ship, returns to Bay City for the first time since 2001. The Pride of Baltimore II, which has been at every festival in Bay City, returns again. The Appledore IV and V, whose home ports are Bay City, also are part of the festival.

Michigan Sugar Company is the presenting sponsor for this year’s event.

The Santa Maria, a Spanish-built replica of Christopher Columbus’ flagship is making its first voyage on the Great Lakes.

The Bluenose II, Nova Scotia’s 143-foot tall ship, returned to Bay City for the first time since 2001.

James Rogers, 19, from Rhode Island, helps dock the Denis Sullivan. James is with the Tall Ships America organization.

Organizers expect the heat, humidity, and threat of passing rain showers won't deter spectators. In 2016, the Celebration drew about 100,000 people. Shirley Roberts, the executive director of the six previous Tall Ship festivals in Bay City, said the ships combine history and beauty like few other things.

People waved, cheered, and took selfies as the ships arrived on Thursday afternoon.

This year, Bay City celebrates 18 years of award-winning maritime festivals. Bay City hosted the fleet in 2001, 2003, 2006, 2010, 2013 and 2016. Bay City has been awarded the coveted “Port of the Year” four times by Tall Ships America - more than any other host port in all of North America.

The Pride of Baltimore II has been at every Tall Ship festival in Bay City.

Daily admission passes and souvenir passports are available at the entrance to the parks. Events are planned on both sides of the Saginaw River through Sunday evening. Free shuttle buses are available to move through the locations.

The festival closes at 5 p.m. each day, but the park is open for casual viewing until 11 p.m. each day. Ballads and Brews brings music and craft beers to Veterans Memorial Park after the festival closes. The $5 cover charge for the musical event is waived for those with Souvenir Passports.

Events linked to the festival aren’t just in the parks. The full list of events is on the website. Highlights include: Entertainers and vendors keep the festive atmosphere going inside both parks.

  • The Historical Museum of Bay County, 321 Washington Ave., offers a special “Bay City: Seaport to the World” exhibit.
  • The Saginaw River Rear Range Lighthouse is open for tours, departing from Veterans Memorial Park.
  • The Delta College Planetarium, 100 Center Ave., is offering special presentations throughout the weekend.
  • Historic church tours are available at Trinity Episcopal Church at the corner of Center Avenue and North Grant Street and First Presbyterian Church at the corner of Center Avenue and Jackson Street.
  • The USS Edson, 1680 Martin St., offers tours.
  • First Presbyterian Church of Bay City will host a non-denominational worship service at the DoubleTree Hotel on Sunday morning.
  • Wenonah Park and Studio 23 are sending artists throughout the festival to create new works inspired by the ships.
  • The State Theater, 913 Washington Ave., is hosting speakers talking about their experiences in the Great Lakes.
  • The Masonic Temple, 700 N. Madison Ave., is offering tours and a special Midnight Monster Movie.
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