You won’t have trouble finding the tall ships when they sail in and dock in downtown Kenosha on Thursday. It should be a dramatic display of tall masts.
The tallest ship, Bluenose II of Lunenburg, Nova Scotia, has a mast that exceeds 13 stories, topping out at a whopping 132 feet. For perspective, the nearest “skyscraper” is a block away — Kenosha’s City Hall at only three stories.
Ranging in size from 77 feet to 198 feet in length and traveling thousands of nautical miles to come to southeastern Wisconsin, the tall ships will be a sight.
This is the first time a fleet of historic sailing vessels of this size has come to Kenosha since 2003 when the HMS Bounty came to town.
Kris Kochman, community relations liaison and event producer for the city of Kenosha, had these suggestions to help visitors navigate the three-day festival:
1. How can I see the ships under sail?
The ships will muster outside the breakwall, just northeast of the red Pierhead Lighthouse mid-afternoon on Thursday. They will participate in a Parade of Sail starting at 3:45 p.m., heading north to Pennoyer Park, just off the coast, then south, turning at Kemper Center, before heading down the channel into downtown. This elegant parade is free to all to view. Depending on the wind, some ships may drop their sails before entering the channel.
Good viewing can be found along the harbor, east of Second Avenue, and also at Celebration Place, east of the Kenosha Public Museum. The festival grounds will be closed to the public on Thursday, due to U.S. Coast Guard procedures with the ships as they dock. The festival grounds open at 10 a.m. Friday.
2. What time will they arrive downtown Thursday?
We estimate they will arrive around 5 p.m. Thursday, wind and weather depending. A good spot to see the ships once they are in the channel is the Kenosha Yacht Club. Note: The ships are not available for tours on Thursday.
3. Will there be a Peanut Butter & Jam concert on Thursday?
Yes. The weekly free outdoor concerts will take place just east of City Hall on Sixth Avenue between 52nd and 54th streets to help kick off the Kenosha Tall Ships festival. Starting at 5 p.m., Tom Kastle will offer narration from the PB&J stage as the ships come down the channel. Concessions will be open, and beverages will be sold by the Kenosha Shrine Club.
The featured band will be the big horn sounds of Tynan at 6 p.m. A brief opening ceremony will take place at 7:15 p.m., then Tynan will resume its performance. While some seating is available, seasoned attendees to PB&J will tell you to bring lawn chairs and blankets.
4. Are there any activities for children?
Yes, for children of all ages. Come to the Pepsi Kids Zone and check out the Kenosha Public Museum’s activities. A highlight in the Wisconsin Coastal Management and NOAA Exploration Station will be storytelling by Pamela Cameron, the author of new children’s book, “Sport — Ship Dog of the Great Lakes.” (Donations of gently used books and non-perishable food items will be collected.)
5. What about music during the festival?
The Miller Lite Music Stage has an amazing lineup of acts, from troubadour Capt. Tom Kastle to Dave and Mike. American English, a Beatles tribute band, is playing from 7 to 9 p.m. Friday. Tickets to the concert are $20; free entry is available to anyone who purchases a festival admission ticket before 4 p.m. Bonus: You can tour three of the five visiting ships without a large crowd.
6. How many ships will be in Kenosha and which ones can I board?
There are seven — two offering sailing excursions and five offering onboard tours. The two offering excursions from the north side of the harbor are Appledore IV and the Red Witch, which docks in Kenosha all summer. On the south side, at HarborPark, there will five ships to board: Bluenose II, S/V Denis Sullivan, U.S. Brig Niagara, Picton Castle and Pride of Baltimore II. Your festival admission ticket allows you to board the ships while they are docked. Tours are self-guided, and crew members are available to answer any questions.
7. Is there any way to see the ships from the water or without a crowd?
If you want to see them from the water on a tall ship, two of the ships are offering 80-minute excursions, Appledore IV and Red Witch from the Kenosha Sailing Center and Yacht Club. (Don’t wait too long to purchase tickets. Many of the day and sunset excursions are sold out.) You can still walk up and see the ships dockside, but you must have an excursion ticket to board the ships. The Red Witch sails starting at 11 a.m. each day of the festival, with the final excursion at 7 p.m. The Appledore IV sets sail daily at 10:30 a.m., with the final excursion setting sail at 6:30 p.m.
8. Is it going to be crowded?
Some 30,000 people are expected to attend the festival. You can expect to spend some time waiting in lines to board the ships. If you want to see them up close without a crowd, there is an early-bird ticket offering admission to the grounds at 9 a.m. daily. You can’t go on board until 10 a.m., but you can watch the crews get ready for their day from dockside.
9. What if I want to tour all five ships? How long will it take?
While people come for the ships, the festival also has a great lineup of art and retail vendors, music and children’s activities. It’s always best to arrive early. Each ship can only allow a certain number of people on board at one time. For your best chance to tour all five ships, purchase a Fast Pass admission ticket.
10. What about parking? Any suggestions?
Downtown Kenosha has plenty of on-street parking and available parking lots. A map is available on the festival website. If you are coming from I-94, take the Highway 158 Exit from either the north or south, all the way to the harbor. A free shuttle will transport festivalgoers from designated stops on both sides of the harbor and next to the Kenosha Sailing Center and Yacht Club and drop off passengers across the street from the festival grounds. A shuttle will also take festival visitors to remote parking across from the Dream Playground at Petzke Park, 2820 14th Ave., about six minutes north of the event site. Note: Access to Simmons Island via 50th Street will be closed to vehicular traffic without a Tall Ships parking placard.
11. How do the tickets work?
A general admission ticket to the festival allows access to everything such as boarding the ships, the art fair, food court and children’s activities and is good for any one day — Friday, Saturday or Sunday (Aug. 2-4). Day and evening sail excursions, Kenosha Rocks the Dock and other special features require a separate ticket.
You’ll save some time by purchasing your tickets in advance. Go to www.kenoshatallships.com. A limited number of reduced-fee tickets are available at Festival Foods in Kenosha, Somers and Racine. Cash or credit cards are accepted for ticket purchases at the gate and at most vendors as well. There will be an ATM on-site.
12. What is the best way to save a few dollars on tickets?
If you are a Kenosha resident, show your driver’s license to admit two adults and any children with them for $33. Or, visit Festival Foods at their Kenosha and Racine locations for a discounted ticket.
13. What about recycling and other ways to “go green”?
Absolutely! Download your ticket to your smart phone. Also, please consider donating a gently used book (or two) for the Kenosha Public Library and/or a non-perishable food item, which will be donated food to local pantries. Donation bins are located at both entrance gates. Also, please help us recycle while at the festival.
Look for Lorelei the Mermaid and Stewy the Sturgeon, created by Water Integrated Treatment Systems, to highlight recycling efforts. These characters were made of chicken wire and stuffed with plastic bottles from a landfill.
14. When do the ships leave?
After the festival ends at 6 p.m. on Aug. 4, the ships leave on their own. We anticipate that two will leave on Sunday evening, and the rest will depart Monday morning.
Helpful tips: Kenosha Tall Ships 2019 is a rain or shine event. Some surfaces in the park are uneven; rubber-soled shoes are advised. No backpacks or large bags are allowed, and handbags will be checked by security. No carry-in food or beverages are allowed. No pets allowed (only service dogs).
Patricia Lock is the tall ship festival consultant for the city of Kenosha.