Buffalo to host historic tall ships in July 2019

Apr 24, 2018

Buffalo's waterfront will play host to a fleet of sailing historic tall ships for a four-day span in July 2019. Officials are already announcing plans to welcome what they say will be the largest number of such ships in Buffalo since the days when the city was a critical shipping port.

The event will be known as Port of Call: Buffalo and is being organized by a steering committee from the Buffalo Lighthouse Association.

A poster offers a tease of some of the tall ships that will arrive in Buffalo in July 2019.
Credit Michael Mroziak, WBFO

The ships are scheduled to arrive on July 4, 2019 and stay until July 7. 

"For the first time since the age of the sail, Buffalo will be welcoming an entire fleet of large sailing vessels back to this harbor and back to this port," said Mike Vogel, association president and chairman of the steering committee. "

The exact number and names of the ships will be determined at a later date. The vessels will be participating in the Tall Ships Challenge Great Lakes 2019 race. The 2019 season will begin in Toronto. Buffalo is the second scheduled stop. 

While most of the activity will be centered at Canalside, the festival celebrating the tall ships will also include the riverfront docks at Erie Basin Marinam Lighthouse Point and other nearby locations. Access to Canalside will be free of charge but there will be opportunities to purchase tickets to board and tour the vessels, according to Vogel.

"It will be an opportunity for people to come and reconnect with their heritage, the heritage of the city, the rich maritime heritage that we have as a major port on the Great Lakes in the 19th Century and into the 20th Century," he said. 

The event is backed by numerous public and private sponsors. Basil Family Dealerships, as the title sponsor, has Port of Call: Buffalo named in its honor. The company's Joe Basil, Sr. is serving as honorary Commodore for the festival. He echoed Vogel's thoughts about how the festival may serve as a celebration of Buffalo's past and local families' histories. 

"It's very important for all families... and for our city that we remember where we came from and who came before us," Basil said. "We dream the same dreams our parents and grandparents had. Our futures are built on their shoulders. Our history and strong family traditions are the lasting treasures that we pass on to our children and grandchildren, most important."

Officials anticipate at least 125,000 will attend the event, for an economic impact between $6 million and $8 million.

The 2019 visit will be the first to take place every three years. Organizers note that the 2025 event will coincide with the bicentennial of the completion of the Erie Canal.