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Editorial: Ships, ahoy!

It’s going to be a party on the waterfront.

It starts Thursday, when 12 tall ships sail into Buffalo’s harbor, just in time to celebrate the Fourth of July.

Everyone should be on board in welcoming these vessels, sailing in from the United States, Canada, Spain and the South Pacific. The ships will arrive from Toronto as part of the Tall Ships Challenge Great Lakes race, stopping here on the way to Cleveland.

Tall Ships America wanted Buffalo to be a host port “for decades” as Paula Blanchard, co-chair of the “Basil Port of Call: Buffalo” said in a Gusto article. Mike Vogel, president of the Buffalo Lighthouse Association and a former reporter and editorial page editor for The Buffalo News, is the other co-chair.

Through hard work, the harbor over the next few days will offer a reminder of when it bustled during the 1800s. It was a time when, as Vogel said, “An absolute river of immigration came westward from the New York port to Buffalo during the 1800s, and everything produced by the Midwest for the world – from lumber to grain to coal to iron ore — came back through Buffalo.”

With 125,000 projected visitors, the event will be a boon to the region. Based on performances in other ports, organizers estimate it will create an economic impact of $6 million to $8 million. And it could be repeated.

If the visit is deemed a success, the city will have hosting rights every three years, including a tall ship here in 2025 during the bicentennial celebration of the Erie Canal.

For this spectacle, appreciative participants can thank Tall Ships America, 30 steering committee members and more than 800 volunteers. Main financial support came from the private sector, with support provided by New York State and Buffalo.

The sheer majesty of tall ships, some fully-rigged, others identified as two-masted-schooners, Brigantine, Barque and Ketch, should be enough to draw crowds.

The ships’ history and specs are all outlined on portofcallbuffalo.org. The site is a great resource from parking (in short supply, so take the Metro Rail, as advised by organizers) to ticket information, activities (educational and entertainment) to vendors.

Most of all, will be the opportunity to get an up-close peek at these vessels and learn more about Buffalo’s rich history. So, head on down to the waterfront and enjoy the view from these tall ships. Welcome aboard!

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