Tall ships to set sail for Philadelphia, Camden next summer

Huge sailing ships will head into Philadelphia and Camden next summer for the first tall ship festival held here since 2000, and L'Hermione, a replica of the ship that brought Gen. Lafayette to the aid of the fledgling United States during the Revolutionary War, will likely be among them.

Philadelphia's Delaware River Waterfront Corporation and Independence Seaport Museum and Camden's Adventure Aquarium and Coopers Ferry Partnership have joined forces to produce the tall ship festival, scheduled for June 24-28, 2015.

The reason for holding the Delaware River tall ship festival in 2015 is to take advantage of L'Hermione's scheduled voyage to the United States to trace Lafayette's journey, said Jodie Milkman, DRWC vice president for communications and programming.

“How exciting that this is the first tall ship festival in Philadelphia in 15 years!” said Judi Kilachand of Friends of Hermione-LaFayette in America. Kilachand said that her organization will host educational events surrounding L'Hermione's arrival.

Learn more about the replica ship and the history of the original here.

The DRWC board on Friday voted to spend $150,000 on the festival – an amount that will be matched by each of the other partners – to enter into a contract with Tall Ships America, the nonprofit that manages the tall ships' travels.

“This is a great example of regional cooperation between Camden and Philadelphia,” said DRWC President Tom Corcoran, who knows Camden very well – he led Coopers Ferry before taking the helm at DRWC.

Milkman and Vice President for Operations and Development Joe Forkin said tall ship festivals attract tens of thousands of people, and so they are optimistic the partners will at least get their money back.

Attendees will be able to watch the ships come in and walk around them at no cost, Milkman said, and it's also likely that at least some ships will offer free tours. Boarding some ships may cost something, she said. The partners will be seeking corporate sponsorships for the event, and charges could vary based on the results of that effort.

There will be festival-type food and events available as well, Milkman said.

Board Member William Hankowsky, who is president and CEO of Liberty Property Trust, suggested DRWC reach out to Navy Yard shipbuilder Aker. He also asked about how strong or diluted the draw of the ships might be. Forkin said part of the negotiations with Tall Ships America entails exclusivity – the hope is to at least keep tall ships out of Baltimore and New York harbors during Philadelphia's festival.

Milkman said the agreed-upon expenditure won't just cover administrative fees with the nonprofit but also the cost of power and other provisions the crews of the visiting ships will need.

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