By Thea Skinner
Triplicate staff writer
Arrgh, Matey! While the community partakes in pre-celebrations, the Tall-Masted Ships Celebration and Del Norte County's 150th Anniversary is on the horizon.
A slew of events are planned for the harbor from May 1-6, beginning on Tuesday with the Grand Arrival Ceremony of Tall-masted ships Lady Washington and Hawaiian Chieftain. The ships are slated to arrive at 2 p.m., but that time may vary.
The ships will be escorted by a U.S. Coast Guard flotilla that will include the Cutter Dorado vessel, the search and rescue vessel 851, and a fireboat issuing geysers of water.
"Crescent City has not seen anything like this since the late 1800s, when the harbor was a regular port of call," said Brian O'Callaghan, executive director of the Del Norte County Historical Society and co-head of the celebration.
Representatives from the city, county, state and the admiral sponsor, The Elk Valley Rancheria, will formally welcome the ships' crews and officers on the Cultural Pavilion stage.
The U.S. Coast Guard will post the colors. Several flag bearers will be present, accompanied by a Prisoners of War flag and two rifle flags.
Barbershop quartets will sing the national anthem and several speeches will occur, O'Callaghan said.
The event committee will treat the crew to a private traditional salmon bake. Throughout the week of festivities, the crew will have the opportunity to tour the redwoods.
Tom Hyde is a spokesperson for Grays Harbor Historical Seaport Authority, a Washington-based nonprofit organization providing the ships. The Authority provides tours for the public and educational programs for schools and home-schoolers on a regular basis.
"They (ships) sail up and down the coast from San Diego to Seattle every year," Hyde said. "The community has been great to work with. We got a great response."
The seaport authority has had the Lady Washington since 1989 as part of the Washington State Centennial, which was built in part with Washington state funds. A bill has gone to the governer to designate Lady Washington as the official ship of Washington state, he said.
"Over the last 18 years, she traveled over 60,000 nautical miles. More than 1 million have crossed her decks," Hyde said.
Participants on the boatside tours will learn about trade and exploration of the West from crew members.
"It (the tours and sails) dispels myths," said Captain "Evil" Ryan Meyer of the Hawaiian Chieftain.
"We train all of our crew," he said, hinting that the training on these ships are different than other ships.
"Our concern is making sure the harbor will have adequate draft for Lady Washington. Accessibility of the harbor takes 11 feet to float the boat. The Chief needs a 5-and-a half-foot draft."
Wednesday's festivities will showcase free historical walking tours between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., and ship tours open to the public for donations between 4 p.m. and 5 p.m.
Thursday will have the same events at the same times, including a performance by Grammy Award-winning opera star Gary Lakes at the Elk Valley Rancheria's Community Room at 7 p.m. The concert is a fundraiser to support Crescent City's Youth Center Project. Admission is $50 for couples, $30 for Singles, and $15 for children 12 under.
"There won't be a dry eye in the house," O'Callaghan said. "We are very fortunate to have Mr. Lakes performing in Del Norte County. Crescent City has not seen a performer of this caliber since Lotta Crabtree, femme fatale of the West Coast, played the Darby Theatre here in 1857."
Friday will showcase the same walking and ship tours, at the same times as the previous days. Also on Friday, William Pint and Felicia Dale will perform old and modern sea songs at 7 p.m. The concert is a fundraiser to help support the celebration as an annual event. Admission is $12 for adults and $6 for children under the age of six.
Next weekend, the harbor will play host to two full days of events. The Northern Knights Car Show, Kite Fun Fly, Battle Sail and a Cinco de Mayo celebration are planned for Saturday. Sunday's events include a battle sail and the Grand Departure Ceremony at 5 p.m.