Celebration makes port at Put-in-Bay

Tourists flock to islands to see ships
Jessica Cuffman
Sep 3, 2013
Child after child pointed with glee to the dozen tall ships docked in Put-in-Bay, grabbing their parents’ hands as the crowd lined the bay breakwall before the battle.

Behind them, Perry’s Victory and International Peace monument stood, American, British and Canadian flags flying high for the last day of the weekend celebration commemorating the War of 1812.

See photos of the Tall Ships leaving the harbor at Put-in-Bay

See photos of the spectators and Tall Ships heading out on the lake

“Which one will Perry be on?” 10-year-old Ellie Ketcham, of Indianapolis, asked her mother, Erica Ketchum, as the family watched the ships readying to leave port for Monday’s re-enactment of the Battle of Lake Erie. Ellie spent some of her summer reading time researching the life of Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry. She checked outbooks from the library, knowing that on Labor Day weekend, she and her family would visit their grandparents, Dave and Linda Frederick, who live on the island.

“And she told me, so now I know it,” proclaimed Ellie’s sister, 5-year-old Kyla Ketcham, her hand gripped onto her yellow binoculars as she scoped out the ships in the bay. “I think the ships are really amazing,” Ellie said. “They’re really big.”

The girls were a few of the thousands of visitors who boarded ferries to South Bass Island this weekend to view and tour the tall ships, see the OSU Marching Band, and explore the historical island markers for the bicentennial celebration of the War of 1812.

On Sunday, ferry trips sold out and dock parking lots remained packed through the finale fireworks display at the monument.    Festivities continued, too, at Kelleys Island, Catawba Island and Port Clinton, where other Tall Ships were docked before heading to Put-in-Bay for the final event.

After the events ended Sunday in Port Clinton, Debbie Hymore-Tester, co-chair of the Tall Ships celebration in the city, said the weekend was absolutely a success.

“A huge success,” she said. “It helped the whole community, between restaurants and gas stations.”

Attendance came in waves from when the ships first arrived Thursday through Sunday evening. “Sunday was unreal. We could not keep up with our shirts sales,” she said.

Attendance didn’t reach coordinators’ top estimates, but in Port Clinton in an early estimate, Hymore-Tester said there were about 30,000 ticket sales for people who boarded the Playfair and the Pathfinder docked at the city’s Waterworks Park.

The focus shifted Monday morning to the islands, where re-enactors and lake enthusiasts boarded the Tall Ships in Put-inBay before heading to the two-hour battle re-enactment.

Far from shore, the ships sailed northwest into the lake where the battle happened in 1813, marking the beginning of the end of the war with the British.

Other boats that had crowded the bay, waiting for the ships’ departure, followed them and anchored to watch the battle.

By late Monday, most visitors had returned home.

From a local perspective, the Fredericks said the weekend appeared to be a success. “I never saw so many people,” Linda said.

“This is the most spectacular event I’ve ever witnessed in 62 years of coming to the island,” Dave said. “All the logistics and coordination was very well done. It was family-oriented and well managed.”