Tall ships the Bluenose II and the Bounty came to the port several years ago, and Sinclair said this weekend’s event was by far busier, believing the large number of visitors was a combination of the 150th anniversary of Canadian Confederation and the fact that the event was free of charge.
At the Hector Heritage Quay, which also had free admission on the weekend, Brian Kellock said between 1,500 and 1,800 people visited.
“Normally we’d expect to have around 200 people per weekend at this time of year,” said the guide and board of directors member.
“The town was packed, you couldn’t move,” he said.
“The impact of it was good for us,” he said, noting that although no admission was charged, many people made donations.
Visitors who signed the Quay’s guest book were from all over the world, including Scotland, Peru, Belgium, almost every Canadian province and many of the U.S. states such as Arizona, Wyoming and California.
Darlene MacDonald, manager of the deCoste Entertainment Centre and a co-chairperson of the tall ships event, said the “economic impact was massive.”
She said many restaurants had a hard time keeping up with the demand and the shops were busy.
“You literally had to dodge people trying to get up and down – the sidewalks were full.”
Northumberland Fisheries Museum guide Molly O’Brien said it was a busy weekend there as well, with many people stopping in as they were walking by on their way to see the ships.
Also free for the weekend, she said a lot of families visited, as well as a lot more locals than normal. “A lot of people said they didn’t realize it was here. It was good for business, our gift shop did fairly well,” said O’Brien.
“It was good for tourism around here. There were a lot of people from near and far.”
John Stewart, husband of Sharon’s Place Family Restaurant owner Sharon Stewart, said their business was “wide open” all weekend, noting that the tall ships brought a lot of business to all of the restaurants and shops in the Shiretown.
He said many of the sailors ate at the Front Street restaurant, along with a lot of tourists, who dined on fish, chowder and lobster burgers.
Fat Tony’s Bar and Grill owner Tony Dolan said business was also steady at his establishment on Water Street.
“It was great for the economy. It was like a second lobster carnival,” he said, noting that the annual Pictou Lobster Carnival, which takes place next weekend, is the busiest time of the year.