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The French tall ship Hermione spent more than three days docked at Riverwalk Landing in Yorktown, where it was met with much fanfare, a score of dignitaries and an estimated crowd of at least 20,000.
County Spokeswoman Gail Whittaker said that attendance number may be a conservative estimate. The ship was docked in the village from the morning of June 5 until early afternoon on June 8, a period marked by numerous events throughout the streets of Yorktown.
To figure out how many visitors came to the village, York County Parks, Recreation and Tourism Manager Brian Fuller said he and his staff compared the ship’s visit to the county’s previous large events, like the annual Fourth of July celebration and OPSail 2012.
“[Yorktown] was pretty crowded all weekend,” he said. “We had events on Main Street all day on Saturday and Sunday with people up there who didn’t make it to the water. There were people there 24/7 the entire time the ship was here.”
Whittaker said county staff considered their observations, the usage of parking spaces, the number of visitors to the information booth and the fact that close to 8,000 people toured the Hermione.
In addition to seeing the Hermione or attending one of the several events underway during the ship’s visit, visitors to Yorktown flooded the village’s businesses.
Demand was so heavy on the booth selling Hermione merchandise near the ship, the vendor had to restock after the first day the ship was in town, Fuller said.
Other businesses in the area fared well, too.
“It was three of our busiest days of the year,” said Brian Nichols, the manager of the Ben & Jerry’s and Green Mountain Coffee on Water Street. “There were lines out the door the entire time. It would start at 6 or 7 [a.m.] for coffee and bagels, and we’d have a line out the door until about 10 at night.”
Nichols said the ship’s visit was a “good experience” for him and his employees, citing frequent interactions with French citizens as a high point.
Debbie Wilks, the store manager at River Fruit Tropical Wines, echoed Nichols in that customers were continuously coming into her business for the entire weekend.
“The crew came into our shop, and there was a little communication barrier but we were able to get through that and we had a blast with them the whole weekend,” she said.
The Hermione is a replica of the French ship which carried Marquis de Lafayette to America during the Revolutionary War.
The ship left for its next destination at Mount Vernon early on the afternoon of June 8. Fuller said his staff had started work cleaning up the village the night of June 7, so that by late afternoon June 8, Yorktown was restored.
The Hermione is currently docked in Baltimore, where it will remain through Sunday. Other American destinations on its trip include Philadelphia, New York City and Boston. The ship will then visit a few destinations in Canada before heading home to France.