BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — Twelve tall ships that came to Buffalo for the 4th of July holiday weekend are now heading, or will be leaving this week, for Cleveland and other ports in the Great Lakes.
The tall ships festival is estimated to have drawn more than 120,000 people to Buffalo's waterfront over its 4-day run.
Officials and organizers tell 7 Eyewitness News Reporter Ed Reilly that the festival was a "great success" as police reported no incidents with the large crowds.
A new traffic plan, that was put into effect to avoid a gridlock situation that occurred after the 2016 visit by the world's largest inflatable duck, was found to work well as it prevented traffic congestion by encouraging people to use the NFTA Metro Rail and parking in lots east of Main Street.
While Canalside and the Erie Basin Marina saw most of the action, many people went to Buffalo's newly developing outer harbor to watch the ships arrive - something organizers were hoping would encourage people to explore the area.
"We are lucky to have as much waterfront as we do. Our hope is that each section of it will attract a different part of the community," said Gregory Stevens, Director of the Niagara River Greenway Commission.
However, hot weather and long lines made it challenging for many people who bought tickets to tour the tall ships.
"It is a learning curve as this was the first time a festival of this magnitude with these types of ships came to Buffalo," said Erin Marra, Assistant General Manager for the Buffalo Waterfront.
Marra said the focus will now be on improving the guest experience to Canalside during hot weather with more shade areas, water bottle refilling stations, cooling misters, and using scheduled times for tours so crowds don't all come at once.
The tall ships could return again in 2022.