A Tall Ships festival will return to Tacoma in 2017 following a nine-year hiatus, if a group of citizens and community leaders gets its way.
An ad hoc committee is exploring the possibility of holding another Tall Ships festival in Tacoma in 2017. But first, the group wants to ensure the event has the support of the Tacoma City Council.
Tall Ships supporters said they aren’t necessarily looking for financial contributions from the city, but they’ll need some assistance with logistical matters such as garbage pickup, utility service, road blockades and fire coverage.
The biggest change under consideration for the proposed 2017 festival? Selling low-priced tickets to help cover the event’s cost.
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“I think that would help with the sustainability of the event,” said Clare Petrich, a Port of Tacoma commissioner and a key organizer of the Tall Ships festivals in Tacoma in 2005 and 2008.
The 2008 Tall Ships festival drew hundreds of thousands to the Thea Foss Waterway but also racked up about $500,000 in debt. People who worked on that event say those obligations have now been paid down or written off.
The event featured more than 30 tall ships — traditionally rigged sailing vessels — that visited Tacoma and were available for tours and charter sails over a five-day period.
The Tacoma City Council will discuss as soon as next week what the city’s role should be in a potential 2017 Tall Ships festival.
Stan Selden, an organizer of the Tall Ships festival in 2008, said he hopes the City Council passes a proclamation declaring its support for the event.
Some council members this week were enthusiastic about the idea. Tacoma City Councilman David Boe described the 2008 event as “fantastic” and an economic boon for the Tacoma waterfront.
“It ties into our heritage,” Boe said.
Tacoma City Councilman Robert Thoms said he hopes to convince all nine council members to lend their support to the event. Thoms has been working with community organizers to identify what they would need to put on a Tall Ships festival in Tacoma in 2017.
In particular, Thoms said he thinks an effort to close off part of Dock Street and charge admission for certain parts of the Tall Ships festival could help make the event more financially viable.
“We want to make sure we’ve learned from 2005 and 2008,” Thoms said.