New London’s maritime festival positively engages public

New London — Towering above the festival-goers, the Coast Guard's 295-foot-long barque Eagle cast an impressive shadow across City Pier.

"Isn't it gorgeous?" asked one attendee; "I've never seen such a tall ship before!" said another. Aboard the vessel, Coast Guard members offered tours, pointing at different pieces of equipment and explaining how they aid in the ship's movement. At the helm, the Coast Guardsmen allowed onlookers to turn the wheel and feel the powerful rudder change directions.

"It's fun, right?" asked one Coast Guard member, helping a young girl turn the wheel.

On the ground, local restaurants had arranged tents where food was served and conversation between locals and military service members was struck. Indeed, the smell from the festival's touted Chowder Challenge attracted a large line of attendees and uniformed officers alike.

On the opposite side of the pier, the Navy had set up its own boats. While much smaller than the Eagle, the U.S. Navy Sea Ark has its own draws; Navy personnel boasted of its speed, saying it could reach 45-50 knots. On the starboard side, a huge machine gun pointed out over the water. "We haven't had to use it against anyone," one sailor said. "Just having it there is generally enough of a deterrent for anyone doing anything illegal."

Despite the intimidating gun, kids were playing aboard the vessel. Sailors let the kids use the ship's siren, horn and even shout orders into the speaker — "All hands-on deck!"

While there was a whole slew of activities for attendees to participate in, Lisa Carberg, the event publicist, spoke to the City Pier's lower-than-expected attendance Saturday, "Fort Trumbull always tends to attract more people, but we're hoping to diversify the City Pier's events to include more kid-friendly activities." Carberg went on to note, "Sunday is our children's fishing event, where we have a bunch of pre-signed-up kids who will fish alongside sailors."

Even though the City Pier was not packed, she expects the Flock Theater's Burning of Benedict Arnold later Saturday to attract much larger crowds at the pier.

The festival's chowder competition was a resounding success. "Many restaurants that participated in the Chowder Challenge ran out of soup — and each restaurant brought 10 gallons!" Carberg stated.

The first-place prize of this year's Chowder Challenge was claimed by The U.S. Navy's Cross Hall, breaking Fatboy's restaurant's impressive two-year win streak. In second place was the U.S. Coast Guard's Chase Hall, and third was claimed by the U.S. Coast Guard barque Eagle. With chowder in hand, one attendee noted, "I really liked the soup this year."

Editor's Note: This article has been edited to correct the size of the Eagle.

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