Yorktown Businesses Prepare for Thousands of People Expected for L’Hermione

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The 18th-century French ship L'Hermione is on its way to Yorktown, its first port-of-call, where it will stay from June 5 to June 7. (Courtesy Friends of the Hermione)
The 18th-century French ship L’Hermione is on its way to Yorktown, its first port-of-call, where it will stay from June 5 to June 7. (Courtesy Friends of the Hermione)

The arrival of the French tall ship Hermione in Yorktown on Friday is expected to bring thousands to the historic village, pushing local businesses to call in extra employees and extend their hours.

The ship will be in town from about 8:30 a.m. Friday until Sunday afternoon.

During that time, up to 5,000 people per day are projected to visit Yorktown to catch a glimpse of the full-size replica of the boat that brought the Marquis de Lafayette to Boston in 1780.

Lodging options in the village will be scarce during the ship’s visit.

“It’s been weeks since we sold the last room,” said Vivian Harris, the general manager of the Duke of York Hotel.

She said her 57-room hotel receives six to eight calls per day from people looking to reserve a hotel room during the ship’s three-day visit in Yorktown.

“We’re writing people’s names down, so if something comes available, we’ll give them a call,” she said. “I’ve got probably 27 names [on the waiting list].”

Harris offered a discounted rate to people who reserved rooms ahead of time. She believes the ship’s visit to Yorktown is a positive for the village.

“Some of the people when they call they say they’ve never been before but they were recommended [to the Duke of York] by people they knew,” she said. “It’s bringing in new people, new revenue. So it’s a good thing.”

Thomas Nelson Jr. owns the Marl Inn Bed & Breakfast and has also been fielding several calls a day from people interested in getting a room during the ship’s visit.

“Far and wide, people are coming,” he said. “We’ve been booked solid about three-quarters of a year. It’s very exciting, and there’s a huge demand for rooms.”

The ship will dock at the piers adjacent to Riverwalk Landing, where Mario Buffa owns Riverwalk Restaurant and Water Street Grille. He plans to have “all hands on deck” throughout the ship’s visit.

“It’s going to be a madhouse down there,” he said. “I’m pretty confident of that.”

Buffa’s restaurants will cater food at events featuring the ship’s crew. He plans to keep the more formal Riverwalk Restaurant’s hours the same, however he will keep the alehouse-style Water Street Grille open until 1 a.m. on the weekend nights.

“I think we’re going to get a big spillover,” Buffa said. “More and more people are coming down to Yorktown. Lots of businesses down here are showing a positive trend, I know we have in our two restaurants.”

While the hours of the combined Ben & Jerry’s and Green Mountain Coffee shop will not be extended, it will have extra staff on hand to accommodate the crowds.

“It’ll be interesting to see the ship,” Manager Christina Wood said. “I haven’t looked up a lot of the history, but it seems to be pretty exciting.”

Debbie Wilks, the manager at River Fruit Tropical Wines, said she is extending her hours to be open 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. during Hermione’s visit.

“We’ve been told to prepare for a large turnout, but nobody seems to know how large yet,” she said.

Wilks said she is excited for the event and she has had practice dealing with large crowds in the past, namely during Yorktown’s iconic Fourth of July celebration.

“We’re hoping [the turnout is as large as the Fourth of July celebration],” she said. “That’ll be nice.”

Several of the business owners praised York County for its organization of the ship’s arrival. The county has been at the forefront of planning security, street closures and the logistics behind getting crowds in and out of the village.

“They’re keeping us very well informed,” said Harris, the general manager of the Duke of York Hotel. “It can get crowded down here when something like that is going on.”

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