Published March 20. 2012 4:00AM Updated March 20. 2012 3:11PM
New London - Gov. Dannel P. Malloy sailed into the city Monday afternoon, stopping at Fort Trumbull State Park to kick off a statewide campaign to raise money for OpSail2012CT.
"This portion of the state has not been at the forefront of some people's minds,'' Malloy said to a contingent of about 100 OpSail organizers and supporters who gathered in the conference center of Fort Trumbull. "New London is such a beautiful community. I'm committed to have New London recognized for all the great things that go on here."
The July 6-9 event is expected to draw thousands to the city's waterfront to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the War of 1812, the writing of "The Star-Spangled Banner" and the state's significance in American history.
The Navy will be part of the celebration and will bring naval vessels to join international tall ships in a parade of sail that is part of a national celebration and that locally will proceed from Niantic Bay to New London.
The committee also announced Monday that actor Brian Dennehy, a native of the state, is the celebrity spokesman for OpSail and will be featured in public-service announcements on radio and television asking residents to donate to the event.
Donations can be made to www.OpSail2012CT.org or by calling (860) 447-2519.
The city's annual Sailfest, which features amusement rides, free entertainment, more than 100 vendors and a fireworks display sponsored by the Mashantucket Peqout Tribal Nation, will be held the same weekend. Festivities will be spread out along the waterfront at Fort Trumbull, City Pier and State Pier.
The long weekend will highlight the state's coastline, Malloy said and "remind everyone how beautiful this part of the country is."
"We are very much committed to this OpSail event,'' Malloy said.
In February, Malloy offered the OpSail committee a matching $500,000 state grant - $1 for every $2 raised - for the event.
Malloy said he intends to become more active in promoting the state as a place to live, visit and work.
"We want to remind people of the history of Connecticut and the greatness that is Connecticut,'' he said. "This city is important in our history and the present day."
Also attending Monday's announcement at Fort Trumbull were Mayor Daryl Justin Finizio and local state representatives.
OpSail2012 will have stops in New Orleans, San Juan, New York, Norfolk, Baltimore, Boston and New London.
The New London-based U.S. Coast Guard barque Eagle, known as America's Tall Ship, will lead a parade of sail into each of the host port cities.
On July 6, the ships are expected to anchor in Niantic Bay and participate in "Celebrate East Lyme" festivities, which will include a fireworks show. On July 7, the ships will sail into New London.
Officials planning OpSail2012CT said it is not clear yet how many ships will be part of the Connecticut celebration.
Kevin Cavanagh, vice chairman of OpSail2012CT, said the committee should know more details in the next two weeks.