Tall Ships Weekend Could Become Annual Event

Sultana, Lynx and Appledore V at Cape Charles Town Harbor (photos by Chris Glennon)

Eastern Shore Virginia Festivals

July 3, 2012

The organizers of Tall Ships at Cape Charles hope to make the festival an annual event.

In addition to pouring dollars into the local economy, events such as Tall Ships and the Birding and Wildlife Festival are putting Cape Charles on the map. There’s a growing awareness of Cape Charles’ deep water port and Northampton County’s many natural and historical resources.

“We had to look at a map to find Cape Charles when we heard we were coming here this weekend,” said Lt. Commander Casey Mahon, commanding officer of the USS Zephyr, one of two Navy vessels visiting Cape Charles for the festival. “Now we can’t wait to come back and bring our families.”

Months of planning and community-wide preparations paid off big time for the local economy June 8-12, with the Tall Ships At Cape Charles festival attracting 7,000 visitors.

Cash registers were ringing, as festival visitors fanned out through the town to patronize the shops and restaurants.  Bed and Breakfasts were booked solid, and both the Town Harbor Marina and Bay Creek Marina were full for the first time ever on the second weekend in June. There was even a waiting list for golf cart rentals.  “I could have rented three times as many carts as I have inventory,” said Malcolm Hayward, owner of Eastern Shore Custom Carts.

“We are absolutely ecstatic with the turnout and the opportunity to showcase our beautiful towns and all the new amenities at Cape Charles Town harbor to thousands of visitors,” said Joyce Holland, President of Eastern Shore Virginia Festivals, a non-profit organization which developed and managed the festival.  “We had visitors literally from all over the country and heard nothing but positive, even rave reviews,” she noted.  “We know that, properly managed and funded, festivals will, over time, have a measureable economic impact here on the Eastern Shore just as they do in other communities around the world.

Historic re-enactors enjoyed their work as much as their audience enjoyed watching. (Photo by Chris Glennon)

While the primary goals of the festival were to attract visitors to Northampton County and boost the local economy, Holland says she and the ESVAF board are equally gratified with the community spirit and “can do” attitude that emerged in support of the festival. “The list of organizations and individuals who labored over the past nine months to make this festival such a smashing success is amazing,” she said.

The initial impetus to develop a Tall Ships At Cape Charles festival came from the visit last summer of the tall ship Kalmar Nyckel, which not only attracted several thousand to Cape Charles to visit and sail on the ship, but also resulted in the town being named an official affiliate port of Opsail 2012 Virginia.

Tall Ships At Cape Charles festival organizers recognized this opportunity to “brand” Cape Charles as the County’s deep water Harbor To Hospitality, and the waterborne gateway to the Eastern Shore.

Seed money to support festival development was awarded to ESVAF by the Northampton County Board of Supervisors, and additional funds and in-kind support were granted by both the Cape Charles and Eastville Town Councils.

Bay Coast Railroad  granted use of its property to provide the crucial pedestrian link and vendor display area between the Town’s shopping district and harbor.

The Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel opened Thimble Shoals Island  to hundreds of motorcoach passengers for viewing of the International Parade of Sail up the Bay on June 8.

Bridge Tunnel toll takers handed out 100,000 flyers promoting the festival over the past three months.

Other sponsors of the festival were Cherrystone Family Camping Resort, Harris Power Equipment, Blue Heron Realty, Riverside Shore Memorial Hospital and SunTrust Bank.

In addition to free public tours of the tall ships and day sails, Cape Charles festival goers were treated to music by more than a dozen local bands and performers and the Northampton County Chamber of Commerce’s season-opening Harbor Party Saturday night. A colorful and dramatic troupe of Elizabethan re-enactors, “Historic Interpretations ,”recreated life in the 16th century.

Children’s activities included making and sailing a model boat and a nautical flag, hair ornamentation, pony rides, face painting and pirate shows.

Making model boats to sail at the festival. (Photo by Chris Glennon)

To complement the festivities in Cape Charles, commemorate the Bicentennial of the War of 1812 and the writing of The Star Spangled Banner, Eastville kicked off its “Star Spangled-Day” on Friday evening with a dinner and performance of 1812 music by the Hildebrandts of the Colonial Music Institute at the Eastville Inn.

On Saturday, the opening ceremony was performed by Alan Stanz’ haunting solo saxophone rendition of The Star Spangled Banner followed by Sgt. First Class Alvy R. Powell’s performance.  Visitors enjoyed walking tours of the Courthouse Green with costumed docents from the PVA.

A special event was the opening of courthouse records for the first time on a weekend, where visitors researched genealogy and marveled at the oldest continuous court records in the United States.  Traci Johnson, the Clerk of Court, also issued marriage licenses for weddings that took place that afternoon in the Gazebo in the town park.

Music by 3 Sheets, The Message Choir, and The Heavenly Wings Over Jordan rocked the back porch of the Eastville Inn, while the festival guests visited the artists and craftsman.

Eastville also celebrated its Native American heritage with Indian weapon demonstrations and tribal history talks.  Speakers were Mike “Fierce Arrow” Hinman, Dr. Paul Ewell on 19th Century Chesapeake Bay Workboats, and Douglas Arvidson on Secrets of the Ancient Navigators

The day ended with two crystal concerts by Willliamsburg’s Dean Shostak in the historic Christ Episcopal Church.

Forty-three vendors sold their wares at the Tall Ships Cape Charles festival. (Photo by Chris Glennon)



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