Tall ships fest launches today, brings sails and sales to Duluth

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Duluth's Tall Ships Festival breezes into the city Thursday, the first day of a five-day festival that brings 250,000 visitors to the city and translates to an estimated $15 million boost to Duluth, MPR reports.

The festival brings nine replicas of historic sailing ships to Duluth's lakefront, as the Duluth News Tribune puts it, "looking like something out of a “Pirates of the Caribbean” movie and turning the Duluth-Superior Harbor and our waterfront areas into congestion and celebration central."

(The festival was to feature 10 ships, but one, the schooner Halie & Matthew, was battered and damaged in a Great Lakes storm. A lightning strike sparked an onboard fire and repairs couldn't be completed in time for the festival.)

Crews on the ships traveling from port to port keep it interesting with a competition called the Tall Ships Challenge, the News Tribune reports.

CNN profiled the working tall ships, which have masts reaching up to 100 feet in the air.

Dockside and onboard tours are available for festival goers. Here's more information on the festival website, and a promo video:

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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.