One of the most anticipated local events in years has finally arrived.
Majestic brigantines, schooners and barques will grace the Kenosha lakefront and glide into the harbor in kicking off the Tall Ships of America’s Tall Ships Challenge.
The opening ceremony begins with a Parade of Sail at 3:45 p.m. today at Simmons Island as ships travel a figure-eight pattern from Pennoyer Park to Kemper Center before funneling into the downtown channel.
The festival grounds officially open with early-bird admission 9 a.m. Friday and continue throughout the weekend.
The three-day event could draw upward of 30,000 people, according to the city community relations liaison Kris Kochman.
Ticket prices are $18 for adults, $9 for kids (ages 6-17). A family pass is also available for $45.
Sail-away ticket prices range from $55 to $75. Early admission to the grounds with preferred boarding is $50. Tickets can be purchased at the gate or online at www.kenoshatallships.com.
General admission includes boarding the ships as well as entrance to the art fair, food court, children’s area and the Miller Lite Music Stage.
American English, a Beatles tribute band, performs 7 to 9 p.m. Friday. Tickets to the concert are $20 or free to anyone who purchases a general admission ticket before 4 p.m. Friday.
A fleet of seven ships will take part in the Kenosha stop. The ships set sail from Green Bay on Tuesday and arrived in the Milwaukee area Wednesday afternoon.
Ships docking in Kenosha include the Barque Picton Castle, Bluenose II, S/V Denis Sullivan, U.S. Brig Niagara, Appledore IV, Pride of Baltimore II and Kenosha’s own Red Witch.
Tom Kastle, a tall ship captain and troubadour, will offer narration as the ships make their grand entrance into the Kenosha harbor.
“It’s like if you were watching a parade on television,” Kastle said. “If you don’t have narration, you’re looking at a magnificent tall ship followed by another magnificent tall ship followed by another magnificent tall ship.
“Every ship has a story. For me, the story is as important as the physical ship. A lot of the reason we sail on these tall ships is to keep the tradition alive.”
Appledore IV and Red Witch are offering 80-minute excursions from the Kenosha Sailing Center and Yacht Club, 5130 Fourth Ave.
Boarding is allowed on the five others ships docked on the south side of the harbor. Crew members will be available to answer questions during the self-guided tours.
Kastle started sailing nearly four decades ago on an 1888 Chesapeake Bay oyster boat while performing maritime music in Irish pubs.
The Chicago-native has since taken his musical act throughout the United States, Canada, Europe and New Zealand.
There were as many as 300 tall ships in Chicago’s port during the 1880s, according to Kastle.
“If you were swimming on the beach in Kenosha back then, you’d probably see 50 of these go by in a normal day,” Kastle said. “The folklore and the music and the stories of these sailors are still going on today.
“When you get aboard the Denis Sullivan and sail, you’re doing exactly what they did in 1870. There’s really no difference. The more you dive into the history, the more stories you come up with. It’s really fascinating.”
A variety of presentations, storytelling and conversation will take place on the Wisconsin Coastal Management and NOAA Exploration Station stage. The stage opens at 11 a.m. each day with a presentation from author Pamela Cameron and her book “Sport: Ship Dog of the Great Lakes.”
For a complete lineup, visit www.kenoshatallships.com.
PHOTOS: Tall ships in the Kenosha harbor
Tall ships return to the Kenosha harbor this week as part of the Tall Ships Challenge Aug. 2-4.
Vessels will arrive in a “Parade of Sail” on the afternoon of Aug. 1, led by Kenosha’s own tall ship – the schooner Red Witch. The Parade of Sail is free to view. People may view the Parade of Sail along the lakefront from Pennoyer Park, south to Eichelman Park.
Here are some photos of the tall ships previous trips to the Kenosha area.