Duluth, MN (NNCNOW.com) --- In just a few days, tall ships will be taking over the Twin Ports, and this year's festival is expected to be bigger than ever.
Organizers expect the festival to be one of the largest events in Duluth's history, funneling millions into the regional economy.
Organizers say more than 250 thousand people will pack the piers this week to catch the flotilla of nine historic tall ships.
The Grand Parade of Sail kicks-off around 2 P.M., Thursday with the ships making their way through the Duluth Ship Canal. The official opening ceremony begins at 4 p.m., in the Duluth harbor.
Some of the familiar vessels expected to be part of the festival include the U.S. Brig Niagara and Pride of Baltimore II, both are replicas of ships from the War of 1812.
Ships are not the only attraction at this year's festival, maritime-themed music and entertainment is also on tap each day. Festival gates along Harbor Drive and Bayfront Festival park will be open until 11 p.m., Friday through Sunday.
Event organizers say with all the week's activities on deck, more than $15m in revenue could be shipped into the regional economy.
"Economically we expect about a 15 million dollar economic impact for the course of the whole event. It's a huge event for Duluth. It equates right up there with the state fair," said Gene Shaw of Visit Duluth.
The last tall ship festival took place in 2010 with more than 200-thousand spectators.
This year's festival is part of the Great Lakes Tall Ship Challenge making stops at 22 other ports around the Great Lakes.
The festival begins on Thursday with ships to set sail for distant ports on Monday afternoon.
Organizers say ticket sales have been brisk with an estimate 2600 day sail tickets already sold. Organizers say tickets are still available and can be purchased at the main festival gates along Harbor Drive and Bayfront Festival Park.
According to Visit Duluth, the tall ship Halie and Matthew will not be participating in the Duluth tall ships festival.
Most of the day sail passengers scheduled for the tall ship Halie & Matthew will be redirected to other vessels this week. “It is with profound regret that the tall ship Halie & Matthew cannot fulfill its obligation to appear at Tall Ships Duluth 2013,” said Captain Bruce Randall. The 118-foot vessel is stranded on the Great Lakes after sustaining damage in heavy weather.
The two-masted gaff-rigged schooner and her crew survived wind, waves, a lightning strike and an on-board fire en route to Duluth. No personal injuries were sustained. Necessary repairs won’t be complete in time to finish the voyage.