By Daniel Ritz

For the 34th consecutive year, thousands will gather for the Ocean Institute’s Tall Ships Festival.

From Sept. 7-9, the Ocean Institute, Dana Point Harbor and proximate waters will be bustling full of historic sailing vessels, history buffs and enthusiastic residents of all ages taking part in the extensive list of thrill-inducing, awe-inspiring and educational events.

Meanwhile, behind the scenes, it could be said the Ocean Institute and President and CEO Dan Pingaro are thinking ahead. They are seeking to enrich the lives of at-risk local youth as well as assisting with the future growth and interest in the ancient art of sailing by educating hundreds of youth from the Orange County Gang Reduction and Intervention Partnership (OC-GRIP) program.

This experience was made possible by funding the Ocean Institute received for programming with Title I schools within Orange County. Title I schools receive services and funding from the largest federal aid packages in existence; aimed to level the playing field for children living in poverty.

Seven schools from across Orange County will send 25 students each to the Ocean Institute on Thursday, Sept. 6 – the day before the Festival sets sail. With transportation funded by the Ocean Institute, students will be treated to educational programs inside the Ocean Institute before loading onto various tall ships for a full day’s sail. The students and their supervisors will experience outdoor education programs on the boats as well as a full-scale cannon battle exercise.

Pingaro said he believes this is a great experience to simultaneously invest in the future of Orange County as well as continuing the relevance of sailing and tall ships.

“For some of these kids, it may be their first experience with the ocean,” Pingaro explained. “This is an opportunity to assist in establishing a lifestyle where youth are more connected and engaged in their natural environment.”

The award-winning OC-GRIP program is a law enforcement partnership that identifies at-risk youth and aims to increase school attendance and decrease gang activity. The Orange County District Attorney’s Office has formed OC- GRIP and GRIP II committees and partnerships with the police departments from the cities of Anaheim, Buena Park, Costa Mesa, Garden Grove, Orange, Santa Ana, Tustin, and the Orange County Sheriff’s Department in Dana Point, Laguna Hills, Mission Viejo, San Clemente, San Juan Capistrano, Stanton, unincorporated areas of North Orange County and the Orange County Probation Department.

Students identified by OC-GRIP as being high-risk for gang exposure and activity are challenged to complete the school year with improved attendance and grades, no suspensions, and involvement in positive after-school activities.

Susan Eckermann is the Orange County senior deputy district attorney who oversees the OC Grip program. She emphasized that each of the youth selected for these opportunities through the OC-GRIP program are picked for an improvement or recognition of consistency of attendance, academic performance or civil service.

“The DA is so grateful for this opportunity to work with the Ocean Institute,” Eckermann said. “We are working to expose them to mentors, to show them experiences and opportunities that they may have never encountered before. We want to connect these kids, give them something to work towards…that also forms a connection to the things that may inspire them.”

In addition to all the reflecting and historical fun at the 34th Annual Tall Ships Festival, some youth may be walking away with an experience that puts a second wind in their sails.

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Schedule of Events

Friday, September 7

Sails n’ Ales

6- 9p.m. Celebrate the start of the 34th Annual Ocean Institute Tall Ships Festival with the Sails ‘m Ales Party. Featuring beer tastings from Sierra Nevada, Mother Earth Brew Company, Lost Winds Brewing, Bottle Logic Brewing, Stereo Brewing, Laguna Beach Brewing Company Docent Brewing, live music, food trucks and mermaid encounters.

Parade of Sail

4:30- 7:30 p.m. Set sail on any one of the historic tall ships and watch the sun dip below the horizon as the 34th Festival kicks off.

Saturday, Sept. 8 and Sunday, Sept. 9

Tall Ships Festival Admission

10 a.m.-4 p.m. Enjoy tours of the Brig Pilgrim, Spirit of Dana Point and all visiting vessels from 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Hands-on educational activities. Access to Sierra Nevada Beer Garden, Main Stage and Pirate Camp. Tickets are $30 for a family four-pack, $10 for adults and $8 for children ages 2-14. Children 2 years old and younger are free.

Breakfast with a Mermaid

9-10:30 a.m. Make a fun mermaid craft, enjoy pancakes and watch the mermaids. Book tickets in advance as this event sells out every year. Tickets are $50 for adults, $45 for children ages 1-10-years-old. Children 1 and under are free. Ocean Institute members will receive 10 percent off. (Pricing includes a Tall Ship Adventure Pass for admission to the Festival).

Cannon Battles

4:30-7:30 p.m. Sail aboard the Spirit of Dana Point as they engage in the Festival’s most exciting and captivating experience. Join the crews as they harness the power of the wind to maneuver into advantageous positions over the other tall ships. For non-members, tickets are $65 for adults, $55 for children 4-12-years-old. Members will receive 10 percent off.

Parking and Transportation

The Ocean Institute will sponsor free shuttles that run directly to the Festival. Parking is free at the designated shuttle lots located at Strand Vista Park and Dana Hills High School.

The shuttles will run from 3-9:30 p.m. on Friday. Shuttles will be available from 8:30 a.m.-8:30 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.

Shuttles run approximately every 30 minutes directly from the shuttle lots to the Festival.

Stay Connected with the Dana Point Times

Unable to attend this year’s Tall Ships Festival? Follow the Dana Point Times on Facebook, on Twitter @DanaPointTimes and on Instagram @danapointtimes for live updates, video streams, photos and recaps all weekend long. Search for the hashtags #DPTimes, #DanaPoint and #TallShips.

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