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Interest building for massive Tall Ships weekend

Cathy Dobson Whoever thought of synchronizing three major attractions on the same weekend deserves a pat on the back.
The Empire Sandy is one of six ships confirmed so far for the Sarnia Tall Ships Celebration. Photo courtesy, Murielle Lecerf

Cathy Dobson

Whoever thought of synchronizing three major attractions on the same weekend deserves a pat on the back.

The combined Tall Ships Celebration, Bluewater BorderFest, and Artzscape By the Bay is attracting advance ticket sales from across Ontario and Michigan and filling hotel rooms.

Organizers say it’s possible – especially if the weather is good –that Sarnia’s waterfront will draw 50,000 or more the weekend of Aug. 9 -11.

“The events are all separate but together they will create an epic weekend,” says Mark Perrin, spokesman for the third annual Bluewater BorderFest Music Festival in Centennial Park.

Perrin is also the executive director of Tourism Sarnia-Lambton and is working closely with Sarnia staff to co-ordinate tours on the six tall ships mooring in Centennial Park, just paces from the BorderFest stage.

It’s all but certain the city won’t have to pay a cent of the $500,000 council earmarked to guarantee costs for the ships, said parks and recreation director Rob Harwood.

“We’re crunching the numbers this week, but I am sure that with sponsorships and ticket sales we will break even,” he said.

The city could use any profit to bring other big events to the waterfront.

Six of Canada’s most famous tall ships are arriving for two days of public tours and sailaways Aug. 10 and 11.

They include the Bluenose II and Picton Castle from Nova Scotia, the Empire Sandy from Toronto, Fair Jeanne, Appledore IV and the Nao Santa Maria, a replica of the ship that brought Columbus to the new world.

Tickets are $10 to view the ships from shore, $15 to board and tour them. The Empire Sandy is taking reservations for public sailing trips and is almost sold out, except for Sunday.

BorderFest has expanded from three to four nights thanks to a $42,000 provincial grant and the potential the tall ships bring to the weekend.

Here’s the musical lineup:

THURSDAY (country) – Tyler Farr, Jerrod Niemann, Scott Manery & the Barn Burners. Tickets $39.99

FRIDAY – headliner Big Wreck, Tokyo Police Club, Texas King, Rodney James and The Riot. Tickets $44.99

SATURDAY – (classic rock weekend) Dennis DeYoung of Styx, Mark Farner’s American Band. Tickets $59.99

SUNDAY – Lou Gramm of Foreigner, John Payne of ASIA and Kelly Keagy of Night Ranger. Ticket $49.99

Perrin noted Big Wreck’s longtime guitar player, Brian Doherty, was a Sarnia resident who passed away in June.

“This show recognizes Brian and celebrates his life,” Perrin said. Two dollars from each ticket will go to the Canadian Cancer Society.

Tickets are available at the Cheeky Monkey, Bad Dog restaurants, Mainstreet Credit Unions, online at and from TicketScene.

Last week, some of the tall ships passed Sarnia as they made their way to Bay City, Michigan, and that helped boost ticket sales, said Harwood.

“The momentum is building. We’re really excited about the weekend and have an army of 130 volunteers helping us,” he said. More volunteers are needed. If interested in volunteering, or to get tickets, visit

Tall ship tickets are also available at City Hall and Tourism Sarnia-Lambton on Venetian Boulevard.

The weekend is also drawing attention to the annual Artzscape By the Bay, says organizer Sandi Grimshaw.

Artzscape is a juried fine art and unique artisans show held in Centennial Park on Aug. 10 (9 a.m. – 6 p.m.) and Aug. 11 (9 a.m. – 4 p.m.) and features 100 vendors.

The free event includes a licensed food court, live music, food, and a kids’ pirate zone.

A special “Pirates Bounty Party” has been added on Thursday, Aug. 8.  It features a silent and live auction at the Sarnia Yacht Club with a pirate raid and lots of photo opportunities.

Tickets are $50, with proceeds supporting Pathways Health Centre for Children.  Email [email protected] for details or check out

“We’re really looking forward to it all. I think it’s going to be awesome,” said Grimshaw.  “It’s such a good combination of events.”

The Arts Journal welcomes any ideas related to the Sarnia arts and culture scene. Please send them to [email protected].  

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