All things nautical celebrated at Connecticut Maritime Heritage Festival
New London — New London is celebrating its nautical traditions this weekend with the Connecticut Maritime Heritage Festival at City Pier, which aims to educate visitors and celebrate Connecticut’s seafaring history.
At the welcoming ceremony Friday afternoon, New London Mayor Daryl Justin Finizio called the festival “a great opportunity to celebrate what’s going on in New London.” The weekend, he said, would allow the city to fully realize the potential of its waterfront after a successful summer season with highlights such as the Charles W. Morgan’s 38th voyage, Sailfest and the return of the Coast Guard barque Eagle.
This weekend’s festival, the renamed and expanded Schooner Fest organized by OpSail Connecticut, included a lighted boat parade Friday from the Fort Trumbull fishing pier to City Pier. Events today include ship visits and charter opportunities on visiting schooners and on the NOAA ship Thomas Jefferson, and the highly anticipated Greater New London Chowder Challenge from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
The Mystic Whaler, the Amistad and the Coast Guard cutter Chinook are all participating in the festival.
Through a partnership with educational research center LEARN and the Mystic Seaport, the festival also will provide educational programs and a blank “Monster Mural” depicting schooners, marine life and New London landmarks such as Ledge Light, which visiting children can color in.
On Friday, Bruce MacDonald, the festival’s chief operating officer, said LEARN and the Seaport also are working on developing a curriculum that will teach students in Connecticut schools about the state’s maritime heritage.
In addition to celebrating the state’s maritime history, encouraging tourism in New London is a goal for this weekend’s festival, according to media relations manager B.J. Finnell.
“Summer may be over, but not in New London,” said Finnell, who expects this year’s festival to build on the success of last year’s Schooner Fest. “What we’re looking for is crowds of people having a good time.”
Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman, acting as honorary chairwoman of the festival alongside Finizio, joined festival Vice Chairman Kevin Cavanagh and U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., at the welcoming ceremony. She called New London the home of Connecticut’s maritime heritage, which she said many people in the state may not know about. She also congratulated the organizers on helping to drive tourism in the region.
The state “might be small, but we are mighty,” said Wyman. “What we have done in the last 3½ years is brought tourism back to Connecticut.”
While the crowds were minimal at the ceremony, the gathering of schooners at City Pier drew a fair share of tourists.
Bill and Rachel Pulsifer of Terryville were “a little bit aware” that the festival was happening when they came down to take a look at some of the ships already at the pier. Though the couple frequently visit Mystic and Rhode Island, they said this was the first time they had been to downtown New London.
“It got us down, it got us off the exit,” said Bill Pulsifer of the gathering of schooners. “We never really stopped down here, we just kind of passed through.”
The two were considering staying for dinner in town and possibly catching the lighted boat parade later in the evening. They were surprised by the number and variety of restaurants downtown.
“On a day like today, we want to try one of the outdoor ones,” Bill Pulsifer said.
For more information on the festivities, visit www.CTMaritimeFest.com.
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