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Back You are here: Home News Hit the deck! OpSail 2012 festival brings tall ships, concerts and living history to Norfolk's waterfront

Hit the deck! OpSail 2012 festival brings tall ships, concerts and living history to Norfolk's waterfront

07June2012_OpsailPhoto by Daily Press

07-June-2012. A friendly fleet will soon arrive at our region's docks for a long weekend of splashy maritime fun.

OpSail 2012 Virginia is part of a national commemoration of the bicentennial of the War of 1812 and the writing of "The Star-Spangled Banner." In Hampton Roads, the event doubles as an opportunity for the U.S. Navy to show Americans how their precious tax dollars are spent.


At its core, though, the event is about good times. The celebration's entertainment options range from free concerts and fireworks to a riverside Ferris wheel and living history encampments.

Of course, the stars of the weekend are the ones floating dockside in Norfolk and Portsmouth. OpSail offers the chance to see proud ships from around the world— both old-fashioned sailing vessels and modern military hardware — up close and in person.

Twenty-two tall ships are expected to be part of OpSail 2012 Virginia along with an equal number of military vessels. Organizers say all of them will be open for tours during at least part of their visit here.

Friday's Parade of Sail will give Peninsula residents the chance to admire tall ships as they gracefully slide toward berths at and near Norfolk's Town Point Park. Fort Monroe in Hampton, where the parade will pass starting at 9:30 a.m., is considered one of the region's best spots for viewing the procession.

"I'm really looking forward to people showing an interest in our maritime history," said Hank Moseley, a Newport News resident who is in charge of maritime operations for the event. "It's so deeply rooted here. It's wonderful to be able to bring the world to our door and share it with them."

There are other close ties between the Peninsula and the sprawling OpSail celebration happening mostly in Norfolk.

Williamsburg's Bruce Hornsby is one of the event's musical headliners. He'll perform starting at 8 p.m. Saturday at Town Point Park, leading up to OpSail's 9:30 p.m. fireworks display.

Expect Hornsby and his band, The Noisemakers, to be in typically improvisational form. "We might do 'Little Sadie' in tribute to the late Doc Watson, or 'The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down' in memory of our great, fallen friend Levon Helm," Hornsby said. "But, as always, we don't know what we're going to do."

He said he might be able to unveil a new song co-written with the esteemed lyricist Robert Hunter. A song from the soundtrack to Spike Lee's film "Red Hook Summer," is another likely choice.

"And don't be freaking here," he said. "We'll also play some nice old hits."

Whatever the setlist, the show will be loose and spirited — a natural fit for a big outdoor festival. "It's a mirthful musical moment," Hornsby said. "That's what we're always about."

Parade of sail: A fleet of tall ships will leave Lynnhaven Roads, just north of the Lesner Bridge, Virginia Beach at 7 a.m. on the morning of Friday, June 8. The fleet will sail past theChesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel toward Hampton Roads, passing Fort Monroe in Hampton between 9:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. The fleet will travel into the Elizabeth River to docking locations in downtown Norfolk. The first ships in the parade will reach Town Point Park in Norfolk at noon. Fort Monroe in Hampton is considered one of the best places in the region to watch the parade. Arrogation will be offered at the fort's Continental Park and along the sea wall. Limited bleacher seating will be available. Visitors are encouraged to bring their own seating.

Parking: Lots near Harbor Park baseball stadium will be used for festival parking. Several paid parking decks are located near Main Street. Those who wish to ride The Tide light rail service to the festival can use commuter parking lots at Newtown Road, Military Highway and Ballentine/Broad Creek Tide stations.

Getting around: Harbor Park, home of the Norfolk Tides baseball team, will serve as home base for The Norfolk Free Way, a free shuttle that will transport visitors around the OpSail area. Hours of operation will be 10 a.m.-11 p.m. June 8-9, 10 a.m.-9 p.m. June 10 and 10 a.m.-8 p.m. June 11. The Tide light rail will also transport visitors near festival hotspots.

More information: To see highlights of the OpSail entertainment schedule go to dailypress.com/opsailentertainment. For complete details, visit http://www.opsail2012virginia.com.

Want to go?

What: OpSail 2012 Virginia and Harborfest, concurrent festivals celebrating maritime culture past and present. Concerts, ship tours and parades, fireworks and military history displays will be part of the event.

Where: Three locations along the Norfolk waterfront: Town Point Park, Front Street near Fort Norfolk, and docks in West Ghent.

When: Friday and Saturday, June 8-9, from 10 a.m.-midnight

Sunday and Monday, June 10-11, from 10 a.m.-8 p.m.

Admission: Free