Today begins what we hope will be a regular event in Crescent City - the Tall-Masted Ships Celebration. Events at the harbor center around replicas of two 18th century ships but include other activities , at Elk Valley Rancheria and elsewhere. The festival celebrates Del Norte County's sesquicentennial, or 150th anniversary.
But Del Norte County boasts a rich history that ought to be celebrated every year: Native Americans who have lived here at least a millennia before Christ was born, early Spanish explorers and English pirates, fur trapping and pioneers, mining and logging, ocean fishing and Easter lilies, shipwrecks and the 1964 tsunami. While the arrival of the tall-masted ships would pay tribute to our sea-going heritage, possibly a different aspect of our history could be added to each new celebration or perhaps even made its theme some years.
Beyond remembering our history, a regular Tall-Masted Ships festival has great potential for drawing tourists. When visitors from out of town fill local hotel rooms, eat at local restaurants, buy gas at local convenience stores, visit local attractions and shop local retailers, it's a good thing. Businesses are more profitable, more jobs are available and additional sales tax revenue flows into government coffers for providing public services. Exactly how many visitors will come to town for the week-long event won't be known for a few days, but so long as future celebrations remain vibrant, its reputation and the number of visitors will grow each passing year.
Keeping the Tall-Masted Ships Celebration alive and evolving will require a dedicated effort. Indeed, planning for any annual event of such a magnitude often begins the day after the last one ends. Much coordination needs to occur among dozens of nonprofit groups, governments, sponsors, clubs and dozens (if not hundreds) of volunteers, and there always is the question of how the celebration will be paid for. Establishing a permanent committee, with a mechanism for raising and spending funds is in order.
For the moment, though, its time to enjoy the fruition of the hard work put in during the past several months by those who organized the celebration and those who sponsored it. If able, head down to the harbor today for the arrival ceremony. Certainly during the week ahead be sure to visit the ships and attend the many varied events planned. It's a great way to learn about and pay homage to our history while having some fun to boot.