The Day Has Finally Come - June 14, 2011 – a day I will remember.
I woke up just after 6 a.m. to begin my day. I was home in Syracuse, but was preparing for my venture north to Clayton for what would be the start to a fun and exciting week. As I rolled out of bed, the email alerts on my phone were already beginning to go off. It was Amy of Amazing Occasions in Clayton, better known as my tent provider. She had awoken to strong gusting winds in Clayton and the outlook for putting up a tent was not good. I emailed her back right away and said “I need this tent up today, I will help if needed.” She agreed to meet me at Frink Park in Clayton around 9 a.m.
It was just about 7 a.m. when I ventured from the house and out to the car. The sky was overcast and cold at home and the winds were just as Amy had explained. This wasn’t how I hoped or envisioned the day to be when I started planning for it in late January. Where was the sun? I left home with my fingers and toes crossed in hopes that things would get better as I made the hour and fifteen minute ride north.
As I approached the village the winds pushed against my car as I traveled along Route 12. The temperature, according to my car reading, was 58 degrees. When I pulled up to the park the clouds were literally flying overhead and the waves on the river were whitecaps. Winds were pushing more than 20 mph. I thought to myself, I really hope things change before noon.
Noontime was when it was to all begin. Tall ship Lynx was scheduled to make her Grand Arrival and the locals were all talking about coming to watch. At 9:45 I got a text message from Captain Jamie Trost, “we are approaching Boldt Castle now.” I thought to myself, this isn’t good. Not only was the weather not in my favor, but now the ship was ahead of schedule and if it kept its course there would be no one in the park to see it come in. I responded back to him and in a nice way said “slow down!” His reply was key and I knew things would begin to go the way I had hoped. He said they were dropping sails in an effort to slow up and if needed he would drop them all and stop if they stayed ahead of schedule.
I rushed to decorate the park and Amy and I chatted about an afternoon raising of the event tent. Just before 11:00 the Froggy 97 (Watertown country radio station) van pulled up to broadcast live from the park and a short time later people started to make their way into the park for the big arrival. Oh, and the winds started to die down a bit too, but not much.
I got excited a little after 11:00 when Last Chance, the Clayton fire boat, darted past the park and headed toward the Thousand Islands Bridge. They were to meet up with Lynx and escort them to town. And back in the park, the entire Clayton elementary school began to arrive – it was nice to see them all.
Off in the distance I could see the 94-foot tall mast of the ship. People began to approach me and say “here comes your ship.” The feeling gave me butterflies in my stomach and a lump in my throat because it was then, seeing the ship coming up the river, that I knew everything I had worked on since the days when the snow was flying was finally here and Clayton was about to embark on a historic week.
Last Chance raced ahead of the ship with its lights on and began to send streams of water high into the air from its hoses. Before long the ship was in clear, full view and her cannons were blasting. Clayton Mayor Norma Zimmer was onboard, as she sailed with the crew from Ogdensburg, and she could be seen waving to those on the dock. As the ship drew closer, the crowd got louder. It was a sight to see. When the ship officially arrived to the dock, at 11:58 a.m. – right on time, there were an estimated 750 people gathered in the park to greet the crew. The sun even decided to peek through the clouds as well.
I never imagined the Grand Arrival to be so well attended, especially in the not-so-nice weather. It truly showed why Clayton is as great as it is.
By mid-afternoon the clouds had parted and the winds settled just enough for our event tent to be put up before the arrival of a group of Wounded Warriors from Fort Drum. What a relief. As the sun shined over the river, nearly 70 people – soldiers and family members – boarded the ship for a private tour and then came to sit under the tent for some pizza. Day One was in the books and I could rest easy knowing everything was going to work out just great. More than 1,000 people passed through the park that first day, a jump start to what the weekend was to bring.
First-ever Sailing Seaway Clayton By The Numbers
- More than 5,000 people would visit Frink Park to see tall ship Lynx between June 14 and 20
- Over 1,000 people took a deck tour of the ship
- Nearly 450 people sailed aboard Lynx during daily two-hour excursions
- Saturday, June 18 – Seaway Day – saw more than 2,000 visitors
- All ten (10) excursions sold out prior to the arrival of Lynx – only port to do so this summer
- Four (4) months of planning went into the event
- Two (2) years have been committed to continue the event in Clayton (2012 & 2013)
As event creator and organizer, I would like to thank a number of people. First and foremost, Susie Smith and the team of TI Life. This group has shown me so much support over the past few years and I appreciate that. Also, the promotion of the event provided by TI Life was more than helpful.
My wife, Christie - she dealt with my obsession of working on this project for four months. She was always there to tell me "good job." I truly appreciate her love and guidance along the way.
Clayton Mayor Norma Zimmer – she was the reason we had success with this event. A true visionary and outstanding leader of our small 1000 Islands village.
Leaders of the Clayton Chamber of Commerce, Clayton fire and police departments, local businesses and event sponsors, as well as the entire community that came to Frink Park and took in the scenery.
Thank you all. You helped me take a vision and bring it to life for all of us to enjoy.
By Michael Folsom,
Michael Folsom is a regular contributor to TI Life. He covers the Seaway News on his popular web site, http://www.theshipwatcher.com/, as well as a twitter site: http://twitter.com/theshipwatcher. His work has been featured in the Thousand Islands Sun, as well as on boatnerd.com and northcountrynow.com.
TI Life has been following Sailing Seaway Clayton since its inception [Coming to Clayton... in June] . Many in Clayton consider the week as the best organized and most successful event ever! Michael is correct when he gives praise to Mayor Zimmer and all those who “got on board” to bring the Lynx to town. What better way to showcase one of the Thousand Islands special communities! Congratulations Mike!