Lake Ontario will be home to an impressive nautical sight as the Tall Ships make their way to Toronto’s waterfront as part of the Redpath Waterfront Festival.
With four days of events planned along two kilometres of the city’s burgeoning shores, the festival promises to be bigger and better than ever, with the massive seagoing vessels serving as a signature draw.
“We did a test event with the Tall Ships a few years ago,” said Redpath Waterfront Festival co-producer Lea Parrell.
“There’s a saying in the Tall Ships world: if you bring tall ships, people will come.’”
That saying proved correct in 2010, when some 750,000 people came down to check out the boats. This year’s Waterfront Festival will bolster the ships’ appearances with a wide array of other events, including interactive theatrical productions about the War of 1812, flyboarding demonstrations, food, film, live music and more.
The festival will draw attention – and crowds – to the waterfront, which is undergoing a massive and long overdue revitalization.
“It’s funny, but even today a lot of people don’t seem to realize we live on a lake here,” Parrell said.
“People know about the Harbourfront Centre and Queens Quay Terminal, but there’s a lot more to the waterfront than those two buildings.”
Parrell hopes the Tall Ships will draw a huge crowd out to the festival, which will in turn help reintroduce Torontonians to the city’s shoreline.
“There’s an awful lot of life along these two kilometres of waterfront,” she said.
“In 2010, Harbour Square Park opened and in 2012, Sugar Beach was added. It’s really become a great place and people need to get to know it again.”
This year’s Waterfront Festival will have an east coast theme, with Nova Scotia-themed food, a 28-foot replica of Peggy’s Point Lighthouse, folk music and more.
Despite the variety of events on tap, Parrell expects the Tall Ships to be the biggest draw.
“It’s free general admission, but people can buy a wristband and have a chance to get on a ship,” she said.
“The largest boat is the SS Sorlandet from Norway, which is unique in that a class of students spends a year afloat on it every year.”
The 210-foot ship, which boasts over 13,300 square feet of sails, will lead a fleet of 11 ships.
Fittingly, Toronto Brigantine Inc. (www.torontobrigantine.org) is the chosen charity of this year’s Redpath Waterfront Festival. The Brigantine offers sail training for youth aboard the STV (Sail Training Vessel) Pathfinder and the TS (Training Ship) Playfair, two tall ships that will be part of the festivities.
The organization uses sailing as a means of character-building while giving youth a memorable experience on the water.
“We mainly focus on teaching the youth the values you learn while sail training,” said Toronto Brigantine program coordinator Kezia Weed.
She noted the participants’ lack of sailing experience – everyone on the ship with the exception of the captain is a teen and those on board are forced to work in shifts to ensure the ships are operating properly 24/7 - ensures they learn techniques quickly.
“Most of the people in the program have zero or very little sailing experience,” she said.
“When you get a lot of kids together who are really unfamiliar with sailing, they start working together really quickly.”
The ships leave port in late June and do not return until September, ensuring an immersive seagoing experience. A bursary program provides all youth with an opportunity to sail.
The Redpath Waterfront Festival will kick off on Thursday, June 20 and will run through Sunday, June 23.
For details on the festival, including a full lineup of events, visit www.towaterfrontfest.com