Two Harbors agrees to pay at least $50,000 in Festival of Sail costs

City administration recommends using campground revenue and is still exploring outside funding options. More than $27,000 in funding still needed.

Canal Park in Duluth was packed with people during the 2016 Tall Ships Festival
The ship canal in Duluth's Canal Park was packed with people enjoying the Parade of Sail at the start of the Tall Ships Festival in August 2016.
File / Duluth News Tribune
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TWO HARBORS — The city agreed to help cover remaining policing and public works costs for the Festival of Sail planned for August.

In a pair of 4-0 votes Monday evening, the City Council approved a funding plan to recover the event’s expenses and a $50,000 grant to go toward the costs, matching a grant from Lovin’ Lake County, the county’s tourism bureau. Three council members, including embattled Mayor Chris Swanson , were not at the meeting.

Miranda Pietila, the city’s finance director, recommended the $50,000 match come from the revenue generated by the city-owned Burlington Bay Campground.

“We definitely do not want the taxpayers to be burdened by this,” Pietila said.

But even with the grants, more than $27,000 is still needed to reach the full $167,000 of expected city expenses, Pietila said. The city will continue to seek outside funding to offset its costs, she added.


Current outside funding to lessen that total, in addition to the city and Lovin' Lake County Grants, includes $15,000 from the event promoter, an 5,000 from vendor permits at the event and a possible $18,000 from the Two Harbors Visitors Bureau.

Event promoter said he's unable to cover $170,000 estimate for city, law enforcement services.

The vast majority of the city's costs is for law enforcement: to support the Two Harbors Police Department itself and for bringing in outside law enforcement agencies when the Festival of Sail is held Aug. 4-7 on Agate Bay. Other costs include staff from the city’s public work’s department, road closures and signs.

Craig Samborski, the event’s promoter, in February agreed to reimburse the city for all key expenses, including law enforcement and public works, but earlier this month said he could not cover the entire cost of city services as the total was larger than expected.

Two Harbors Police Chief Rick Hogenson again defended the cost for policing the event, and said recent table-top exercises exploring different Festival of Sail scenarios even increased his staff plan by three people.

“Failure to plan is planning to fail,” Hogenson said.

Councilor Robin Glaser reluctantly voted to approve the city’s financial commitment “as long as there are no dollars coming out of the general fund.” She added that she wished the council knew about the festival sooner and said she wished planning had started earlier, too.

“The money that the city is putting forward is not for the festival,” Glaser said. “The money that we’re putting forward is money that will keep our community safe and our citizens safe.”

In the agenda meeting ahead of the council meeting, Glaser told Samborski she was frustrated the council didn’t know about a festival of this size until October.


Samborksi said he doesn’t know why it took so long for the council to know. In the meeting, he told the council he began planning the event in July and that Mayor Chris Swanson was his point of contact with the city.

“I’ve got emails and texts (from Swanson) saying no cost for police, no cost for this, no cost for that,” Samborski said.


Councilor Miles Woodruff said earlier planning could have avoided this scenario.

“I’d like to see (the Festival of Sail) happen. It’s just I don’t think we really got the foresight. We never got numbers until late in the game,” Woodruff said. “If someone would have come and said it’s $190,000 I think we could have been prepared for it. We’re trying to scramble for the dollars towards the end.”

Last week, Two Harbors reached out to the Department of Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation seeking financial assistance for the Festival of Sail but because the state agency’s fiscal year ends at the end of June, all of its grants have been awarded, agency spokesperson Sheryl Kochevar told the News Tribune last week.

And the agency’s next batch of Culture and Tourism grants won’t be awarded until September, a month after the Festival of Sail.

“You can’t provide a grant for an event that’s already happened,” Kochevar said. “But if they would have applied for the March cultural and tourism cycle, they probably would have received a grant then.”

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