Our View: Tall ships festival a tall order for tiny Two Harbors

From the editorial: "As well-prepared as (they) may be ... apprehension is to be expected. All the Northland can wish our neighbors on Agate Bay and Burlington Bay good luck this weekend."

The US Brig Niagara blows a cannon during Festival of Sail in Duluth in 2019.
News Tribune file photo
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There are only about 3,500 people living in Two Harbors. But today through Sunday, the small North Shore city will be welcoming nearly twice that many visitors, an expected 6,000 — per day.

The tall-ships festival will be a tall order for the tiny town.

But residents and visitors alike can find at least some reassurance that all will go well in the words of Two Harbors Police Chief Rick Hogenson. “We are well-prepared,” he told a News Tribune reporter for a story last week — even if Two Harbors is a first-time and far-smaller-than-usual host of the wildly popular, people-aplenty, and traffic-snarling Festival of Sail.

There are reasons to believe, beyond the chief’s words, that, if everyone cooperates and commits to remaining patient and positive, the major event can go off without too many waves in its new and perhaps-unexpected venue.

Law enforcement agencies from all around Northeastern Minnesota — federal, state, and local — will be present to give Two Harbors PD a hand in ensuring that it does. The city's $50,000 contribution to the festival was fully earmarked to that law-enforcement presence and responses as needed. In addition, the U.S. Coast Guard will be there at the ready and has already declared the festival a “Marine Event of National Significance.”


There’s plenty, of course, that residents and visitors alike can do to help maintain calm waters, so that the large police presence can just blend into the background.

Perhaps most importantly for everyone is expecting traffic delays and limited on-street parking.

Whether going to the festival or not, while it’s going on, motorists can consider avoiding left turns at intersections without traffic lights, so as not to further snarl traffic. Hogenson advises left turns from Seventh Avenue only at Seventh, Sixth and Fourth streets.

Because Two Harbors will be packed with cars and people, through traffic should consider bypassing the city altogether. "To go around Two Harbors is quite a drive, but a scenic one at that,” Hogenson told the News Tribune. “If you've got time, I would encourage you to do it."

Those going to the festival can use designated parking lots outside the city and then shuttle in, including to the shuttle’s primary stop at the Two Harbors Community Center. The festival’s entrances are at Paul Van Hoven Park on Waterfront Drive and near the Two Harbors Lighthouse Museum on Lighthouse Point Road.

All attendees must have a paid ticket, authorized wristband, or event-issued credential, organizers offered as a reminder last week. Buying tickets in advance isn’t required but would save time at the festival’s entrances and ensure admission if the event sells out.

All bags and purses will be searched, they also said as a reminder. Things to leave home: your own food, large backpacks, firearms, weapons, explosives, glass containers, and coolers larger than five quarts. Smaller coolers are allowed if they’re being used to carry baby food or prescribed medicine. One factory-sealed bottle of liquid per guest will be allowed to be carried in.

During the festival, complaints to law enforcement — including parking violations, trespassing, or requests for service — shouldn’t go to 911, which should be reserved for emergencies; instead, non-emergency lines should be used to reach the Two Harbors Police Department at 218-834-5566 or the Lake County Sheriff's Office Dispatch Center at 218-834-8385.


The tall-ships festival promises to be a great time. It always is and only comes to the western end of Lake Superior once every three years. This go-around, nine vessels are expected, with on-water tours, the World's Largest Rubber Duck, and more than 100 confirmed vendors.

"It's certainly an exciting time for Two Harbors," Chief Hogenson said. "I'd be lying if I said there wasn't a little anxiety and nervousness.”

As well-prepared as tiny Two Harbors may be, that apprehension is to be expected. All the Northland can wish our neighbors on Agate Bay and Burlington Bay good luck this weekend. And if any of us are there or anywhere near, we can all do our part to ensure everything goes off swimmingly.

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