The WNLC Classic 98.7 Connecticut Schooner Festival Sails Into New London and Mystic to celebrate state’s maritime heritage, history and spirit of innovation
The WNLC Classic 98.7 Connecticut Schooner Festival is coming to New London and Mystic Seaport September 11-15, 2013 with a range of activities for visitors of all ages. Celebrating the state’s maritime heritage, history and spirit of innovation, the Festival is being organized by the group that presented last year’s highly successful OpSail 2012 CT that brought a fleet of tall ships, navy vessels and Coast Guard ships to Niantic and New London. New London’s mayor, Daryl Justin Finizio, is the honorary chairman.
“We’re thrilled to be able to cap off our summer season with this exciting event,” said Finizio. “Our waterfront is the ideal location to showcase our state’s rich maritime heritage, and we welcome the many crewmembers and visitors who will come in for this event. We’re prepared to greet them with our eclectic mix of unique boutique shops, restaurants, and numerous cultural attractions.”
John S. Johnson, the schooner festival chairman who headed the OpSail celebrations here in 2000 and 2012, said this year’s festival is really a celebration of Connecticut, a state that is still revolutionary, as the state’s tourism slogan proudly proclaims.
“We want to build on the success of last year’s OpSail, and focus on the significant history and maritime heritage we have here in Connecticut,” Johnson said. “We also want to honor the spirit of innovation that made our state a leader in manufacturing and naval military prowess, ship building and sea-borne commerce. We’re looking forward to fun-filled week of activities, and becoming part of a proud tradition of similar schooner festivals in Gloucester, Provincetown and Chesapeake Bay.”
The New London-based classic rock station, WNLC of the Hall Communications group is the event’s title sponsor.
“We’re honored that WNLC classic 98.7 to be the title sponsor of the Connecticut Schooner Fest,” said Andy Russell, vice president and general manager of Hall Communications. “This festival is a celebration of Connecticut’s maritime heritage, history and spirit of innovation and we’re thrilled to be associated with it.”
The Festival gets underway with a dockside education program for Connecticut school children at Mystic Seaport. In addition, there will be students learning aboard the schooner Quinnipiack as it transits Long Island Sound from its homeport in New Haven to the festival.
Following the initial education program in Mystic, the schooner fleet moves to the New London waterfront, which in recent years has undergone more than $11 million in improvements, making it more attractive to the boating community and other visitors. The changes include additional dockage, a new mooring field and an attractive walkway along the water.
The schooner festival will feature five days of family fun and entertainment including a schooner race along Fisher’s Island Sound, with prime viewing from New London’s Ocean Beach Park, ship visits, schooner sailing trips on participating schooners, two dockside music concerts, a juried plein air painting competition, a giant sand sculpture, The Great New London Chowder Challenge among New London’s many restaurants, with visitors getting to vote for their favorites.
Most of the New London activities will take place on the waterfront near City Pier, but a “Made in Connecticut” expo, featuring Connecticut-made products, will take place on the city’s Parade Plaza a short distance away.
In addition, New London’s creative Flock Theatre will present a unique street pageant called “The Burning in Effigy of Benedict Arnold.” This revives a tradition in some American cities following Arnold’s decision to switch sides during the Revolutionary War. The pageant had particular meaning for New London as Arnold, a Norwich native, led troops that burned New London and attacked Fort Griswold in Groton Heights, massacring a number of American patriots.
As with schooner festivals elsewhere, the Connecticut event will feature a spirited race, this one taking place on Saturday, the14th. An awards dinner will take place that evening to recognize the winners. There is no charge to visit the festival, and a complete schedule of activities is available at CTSchoonerFest.com.
Festival organizers hope to have as many as 20 schooners taking part. Those committed to date, include:
- Adventurer, a 122-foot historic wooden dory fishing schooner built in 1926 in Essex, Massachusetts;
- Brilliant, Mystic Seaport’s prize-winning 64-foot schooner described by Wooden Boat magazine as one of the 100 most beautiful classic boats in existence;
- Equinox; a racing rig Muscongus Bay Schooner, owned by Mathew Otto and built by Ralph Stanley in Southwest Harbor Maine, 1983-1984, 28-feet in length on deck with a spar length of about 40-feet, moored in North Basin above Mystic Seaport;
- Irena, a Tom Colvin Gazelle model 42' schooner, built of steel in Florida in 1984, launched in Seattle in 1986, moved to Waukegan, Illinois, for Great lake sailing;
- Lelanta, a 1929 custom designed private yacht by Boston designer John G Alden and built of steel by G de Vries Lentsch at Amsterdam, Holland;
- Malabar II, a two-masted gaff-rigged schooner designed in 1922 by John Alden in Boston Massachusetts;
- Mystic Whaler, a reproduction of a late 19th century coastal cargo schooner that was designed for the passenger trade by Chubb Crockett of Camden, Maine;
- Niamh, a 42-foot Tom Colvin Saugeen Witch schooner;
- Quinnipiack, New Haven’s 91-foot flagship schooner, built in 1984 and originally named the 'Janet May', she has been sailing in New Haven for over 20 years
- Quintessence, a duplicate of an early 20th century Friendship sloop, built in fiberglass by Jarvis Newman and Mack Pettrigrew.
When the schooner festival arrives in New London on Friday, September 13, the ship captains will be honored at the United States Coast Guard Academy, with the corps of cadets marching in a Regimental Review. The public will also be treated to entertainment including music on the waterfront, a lighted boat parade to welcome the schooners and a host of other activities including sand sculpting and Kidsploration with Steve Elci and Friends and a large color board for budding young artists.
Then, on Saturday, New London’s restaurants will engage in the chowder competition from 12:00-3 p.m., with visitors getting to vote for their favorites. The plein air painting competition will conclude at 2 p.m., Saturday after two days of painting throughout the New London and Mystic waterfront area.
The Connecticut Schooner Festival will finish on Sunday, September 15 as the ships form a parade of sail and head down the Thames River to close out the event.
Historically, schooners have played an important role in the development of our state and country. They were hardly strangers in Connecticut waters as our country struggled against the mighty British navy; they hauled cargo, and, sadly, at times slaves. Arguably the most well known of this class, La Amistad, was intercepted in Long Island Sound by a Revenue Cutter ship and escorted into New London, where it remained moored for more than a year behind the federal Customs House which remains in service to this day. In 2000, Mystic Seaport launched the Freedom Schooner Amistad, an approximate replica of the original. Today, her mission is education.
About the Connecticut Schooner Festival:
The Connecticut Schooner Festival, a production of OpSail CONNECTICUT, is a celebration of our state’s maritime heritage, history and spirit of innovation. Working with community partners, our purpose is to draw attention to the important role the sea has played in the formation of our state and nation, and to honor the role schooners played in that development. The festival takes place Sept. 11 – 15, starting at Mystic Seaport and moving to the historic city of New London. Additional information may be found at www.CTschoonerFest.com.