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No viking ship, but Duluth's festival will be just ducky anyway


There was some drama this summer about whether the world's largest viking ship would make it to Duluth's Tall Ships festival.

While the Draken Harald Hårfagre had to return to Norway, a parade of nine other impressive vessels is scheduled to sail into Duluth's harbor at about 1 p.m. Thursday.

Organizers say the 2016 edition will be the biggest Tall Ships Duluth of them all. Over the four-day event there will be ship tours, day sails (they're sold out), displays, food, drink, and even an art show.

Have a transportation plan

Hundreds of thousands of people are expected in Canal Park and neighboring areas. So don't expect to drive right up to those tall ships. An advisory from Duluth police says drivers can expect "extreme traffic congestion" around Canal Park and the Aerial Lift Bridge. Police advise parking farther away and walking to the ships.

People trying to get across the lift bridge will need to be patient, too. The News Tribune says organizers of Thursday's Parade of Sail have agreed to send the ships through in three groups of three, with the bridge being lowered between groups.

Even traffic between the Twin Cities and Duluth may be heavy, especially on Sunday. The Minnesota Department of Transportation suggests an alternative to the 35-all-the-way route on the Tall Ships site.

What ships will be there?

A page on the website has full descriptions of eight of the ships, which include the only active replica of the Spanish galleons that sailed in the 16th and 17th Centuries.

There's also a restoration of the U.S. Brig Niagara. It was one of nine smaller American ships that teamed up to defeat a British squadron in the Battle of Lake Erie during the War of 1812.

Oh, and ... it's not exactly a ship ... but there will be this:

The World's Largest Rubber Duck is definitely a thing and it's part of the festivities.

She's called Mama Duck and the executive producer of Tall Ships Duluth says she "inspires us to enjoy the world’s waterfronts and conserve our natural resources for future ducklings.”

If you were 61 feet tall and weighed 12 tons, you'd probably need some help getting ready for a festival, too. The News Tribune spoke with the handler who inflates and otherwise cares for Mama Duck. Bob Horn also happens to be a Duluth native, the paper says.

One note of caution: bad weather tends to deflate Mama Duck, if you know what we're saying, so let's hope Duluth can avoid the chance of thunderstorms in the forecast the next few days.

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Organizers hoping to expand Duluth's Tall Ships festival next year

The News Tribune reports tourism officials are in talks with about 25 vessels to see which can attend the July 2013 festival. Nine ships and about 225,000 fans were part of the event two years ago. Visit Duluth President and CEO Terry Mattson says no vessels have committed to the festival yet, but expects that to change soon.