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Festival of Sail will reimburse Two Harbors for law enforcement, other expenses

The new arrangement also takes mayor-connected First Day Events out of the picture.

Tall ships
The HMS Bounty, right, and the Roald Amundsen approach the ship canal for the parade of sail during the Duluth Tall Ships festival in July 2010.
File / Duluth News Tribune
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TWO HARBORS — The tall ships festival again has some wind behind its sails.

Festival of Sail promoter Craig Samborski told the Two Harbors City Council on Monday evening that the festival would reimburse the city for key expenses, that he’d be applying for a special event permit from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources himself and that First Day Events, the former event coordinator, would not have any role in the event.

The move comes after the News Tribune reported that nonprofit First Day Events was incorporated by Ashleigh Swanson , Two Harbors Mayor Chris Swanson's daughter, as he was urging the council to support the potential for the festival to come to town.

City staff and other council members had also raised significant organizational and liability concerns over the event .

“That was a big thing, obviously,” city attorney Tim Costley said Monday. “I have been assured by Mr. Samborski that First Day Events will not be involved in the tall ships festival.”

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Samborski on Monday acknowledged that working with another entity was “foreign” for him, and that he’s used to hosting Festival of Sail events himself and taking on all promoting and coordinating responsibilities that come with it.

The festival, formerly known as Tall Ships, is scheduled for Two Harbors from Aug. 4-7 and could bring as many as 100,000 people to the North Shore city.

Under the prior arrangement, the city of Two Harbors was asked to apply for the permit needed to use DNR-owned land along Agate Bay, the site of the event, on behalf of First Day Events as the DNR was used to working with other government bodies.

But Costley warned that if the city was named on that permit, the event's liability would fall on the city unless a contract was established between First Day Events and the city. But doing that would likely be a conflict of interest under the city code, charter and state law because of the mayor’s connection to the nonprofit.

In addition to Samborski applying for the DNR permit himself, City Clerk Patty Nordean said she and Samborski agreed he would apply for a city special event permit with conditions that the Festival of Sail reimburse the city for salaries and fringe benefits for any outside law enforcement agency working the event and salaries of outside of regular work time for the Two Harbors Police Department and Public Works Department. Equipment, meals and any other needs by law enforcement, first responders and public works would also be reimbursed.

“If the council is amenable to those conditions, then (city) staff would recommend approving that permits and then we can move forward with the event,” Nordean said.

The council unanimously approved the special event permit for the Festival of Sail and, unlike an hourslong meeting held earlier this month on the festival, raised no concerns over the new arrangements.

Samborski said his meeting with the city last week “was probably long overdue.”

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“We went through, I think, in pretty finite detail who’s paying for what, who’s doing what, what the roles and responsibilities are of the event,” Samborski said. “I think that’s what was creating a lot of the heartburn that was going on with the event.”

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Jimmy Lovrien covers energy, mining and the 8th Congressional District for the Duluth News Tribune. He can be reached at jlovrien@duluthnews.com or 218-723-5332.
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