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    Bitter end for those who don't fit aboard

    © St. Petersburg Times
    published June 30, 2002

    ST. PETERSBURG -- Jack Glasure, an organizer of the Americas' Sail 2002 tall ships festival, stood at the event's front gate Saturday, answering festival volunteers' questions on his cell phone. Suddenly, a dissatisfied customer confronted him.

    "We paid $50 and didn't even get on a ship," the angry man said, his wife and child in tow.

    Glasure offered the family free passes to today's final day of the festival. "We're doing the best we can to make everybody happy."

    Plenty of people had a fine time at the festival Saturday on the downtown waterfront. But many frustrated patrons complained about long lines, heat and disorganization.

    "Yes, we have had glitches today because we had an enormous crowd," said Don Shea, the festival's general chairman. "We had reports of 100,000 people on the site today, which puts a pretty severe strain on our organizational base. But we feel the vast majority of people have come away satisfied they had a very good experience."

    Some patrons were upset because they couldn't get on the 295-foot U.S. Coast Guard trainer Eagle. One of the festival's main attractions, the Eagle will depart at 10 this morning.

    Only 700 people an hour could board the boat, and festival crowd estimates Saturday ranged from 50,000 to 100,000. Also, customers didn't understand the process: They paid $10 to get into the festival and then could go on the Eagle for no additional charge, but they needed to get ticket vouchers with a half-hour time frame for boarding.

    Organizers acknowledge that, to avoid confusion, they need more signs and better communication with the thousands of volunteers.

    Don and Joan Lamb of Tierra Verde said they were disappointed by high prices and long lines. "We felt it was excessive for ships of that size," Joan Lamb said.

    Karen and Daniel May and their 18-month-old son Nelson left after an hour. There were long lines to go on the ships, so they skipped the main attraction. With no place to sit and listen to the bands, they skipped that too.

    "They really don't have the amenities to accommodate this many people," Daniel May said.

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