Sailfest Draws Crowds Despite Grey Skies

Despite the grey skies, people flocked to New London’s waterfront for the second day of Sailfest on Saturday. Some strolled through the streets before the vendors had officially opened at ten o’clock.

“I’m excited about it. I want to see what’s going on. There’s lots of vendors, lots of food. There’s lot of things happening. I especially want to go on a tall ship,” said Susanne Nowak who visited from Windham with her husband and mother-in-law.

The Mystic Whaler, the oldest continuously sailing ship in Connecticut, cruised the harbor for one hour tours.

“We’ll be looking at historic Ft. Griswold in Groton, Ft. Trumbel here in New London, and all the vessels that will be assembling here to watch the fireworks,” explained the ship’s captain John Eginton.

The Mystic Whaler the only tall ship sailing at the festival this year. A hydroelectric boat they had planned to sail, ran into trouble getting to the festival. Improvements to the Amestad, another favorite tall ship, was not finished in time for the festival.

The festival’s focus has shifted from when it started 39-years ago.

“When it started out it was actually a sailboat race,” explained Barbara Neffs, the festival’s executive director.

Now, there are 250 craft and food vendors drawing visitors from across New England and beyond.

”I’m looking forward to going to the booths and the food,” said Barb Cook of Bellview, Ohio.

“People call and want to know when this event is so they can build it around family vacations,” Neffs explained.

“We have a lot of friends and family in the area so it’s fun to come down here and see everyone and celebrate. It’s a big event every year,” said Kristi Dervos of Groton.

Organizers expect at least 250,000 people to attend the festival over three days. With some communities canceling their fireworks this year, including Hartford, the city could swell to over 300,000 for Saturday night’s big show in the sky.

When it comes to the best part of Sailfest, visitors let their taste buds do the talking.

“Uh, the food,” laughed Nikki Salaun of Westerly, RI.

Come for lunch, and stay for dinner and dessert, they advised.

“I like the shish kebobs and the rice and the desserts,” she added.

“A gyro,” is Nowak’s favorite festival fare.

“Italian sausage grinder,” chimed in her mother-in-law, Grace, of Mansfield.

“I love fair food,” said Nowak’s husband Steve.

Whether it’s sweet treats or hardy eats, American or International, you’re sure to sail away satisfied.

NBC Connecticut is a proud sponsor of Sailfest. Make sure you stop by our booth Sunday say hello to some of your favorite members of the news team. Heidi and Todd will be there from 1:00 to 2:30. Kevin and Tara will be at the booth from 2:30 to four o'clock.

Contact Us