Kenosha’s renovated harbor front welcomed its largest ever community event - the U. S. Cellular Kenosha Days of Discovery - a maritime festival. The three-day festival hosted vintage sailing vessels from Canada and the United States known as “tall ships.” This opportunity created a multitude of benefits for the hosting foundation as well as the City of Kenosha including economic and community development, environmental and history education, and youth awareness.
THE CUSTOM EVENT was hired as Operations Management for the festival. This entailed design and coordination of all logistical aspects of the event in cooperation with the marketing team, event sponsors, the City of Kenosha, event suppliers and volunteers. This festival was created and run by a foundation, the Kenosha Days of Discovery, with a long-range environmental education mission.
As part of this festival, nine ships were coordinated in Kenosha at various times throughout the week. The tall ships were made available due to a rare appearance in the Great Lakes this summer as part of a sail-training race produced by the American Sail Training Association. First to sail in on Wednesday, the Pride of Baltimore followed by the famous HMS Bounty. With approximately 20,000 visitors in attendance, on Thursday afternoon, these additional ships sailed in together accompanied by a naval cannon salute: Fair Jeanne, True North, Nina, Larinda, Red Witch and the Amara Zee. Vessels remained through Sunday, open for public tours. On Monday, after the festival portion closed, the popular Denis Sullivan sailed in. Of course, each vessel is like a floating museum with very specific operations requirements.
THE CUSTOM EVENT TAPPED TO PRODUCE
MAJOR MIDWEST TALL SHIPS FESTIVAL
The festival grounds were approximately 150,000 square feet of harbor side space. THE CUSTOM EVENT placed about 40 tents in various sizes throughout the grounds to include gate entries and ticket sales, food vending, beer tent, merchandise sales, exhibits, sitting/cooling areas, entertainment, information areas, emergency services, etc. One of the goals was to create a more upscale and uniform festival environment. Custom-designed sign stands for event schedules and vendor booths were created utilizing cost effective white PVC that created a clean and consistent look and could hold up in the lakeside wind. In addition, all booth tables featured color-coordinated cloth linens.
THE CUSTOM EVENT began pre-event coordination with area vendors and city departments months in advance. The Departments of Mayor’s Office, Police, Fire, Health, Transportation and Coast Guard were part of a task force designed to communicate any issues and prevent any on-site problems. Since this harbor area was newly designed, close coordination with the city was required to uncover underground irrigation and lack of power and potable water issues. Of course, the event was made possible through the help of many volunteers and outside organizations. U. S. Cellular became the presenting sponsor. Media sponsors included the Kenosha News, WRJN and WEZY radio and Pax TV. Other harborside venues and museums also participated. A number of local food vendors were also chosen to participate in the fest based on their potential appeal, quality and overall variety.
A “family” environment was fostered through marketing elements as well as event inclusions. A children’s activity area was designed that incorporated various maritime education and entertainment elements. Roving characters were provided to entertain anyone who had to stand in line. Musical entertainment was chosen to provide a maritime feel along with a good cross section of other talent. On Saturday evening, a fireworks presentation was coordinated with the city. In addition, there were also private evening events held by various sponsoring organizations.
Over 60,000 people attended the four-day festival. A random sampling of attendees indicated that visitors had attended from at least twelve states outside of Wisconsin as well as England. Local hotel occupancy was at its highest for the summer. Local merchants experienced an increase in business including high-end yacht and town home sales. The trolley system carried over 12,000 visitors – 25% of their usual annual ridership for the year! With youth education as a key element, many of the participating ships offered students the opportunity to learn life skills through onboard experiences. The fest raised approximately $75,000 that will be put towards continuing education and may go towards another similar festival in the future.
A fireworks display lights up the night sky above majestic tall ships in the Kenosha Harbor.