Analysis of the results from OpSail 2012 Virginia™, the 12-day celebration last summer commemorating the 200th Anniversary of the War of 1812, showed the event exceeded expectations attracting more than 50 ships from around the world, more than 1.5 million visitors and at least $150 million impact for participating communities. Impact totals are based in part on end-of-year assessments and affidavits provided by participating communities.
“Virginia’s OpSail efforts dominated those of other regions in terms of scope, attendance, community engagement, coverage, and overall impact,” says Karen Scherberger, CEO of Norfolk Festevents. “We brought to the Port of Virginia the most ambitious peacetime joint military exercise since the Jamestown Exhibition of 1907.”
The scope of OpSail 2012 Virginia became greater than anticipated with 58 ships/vessels participating from an originally anticipated 25 ships. This brought to the region 6,000 officers, cadets and crew members from 15 nations, along with more than 1,000 flag officers from every branch of the U.S. armed services. More than 3.5 miles of linear docking space was used in Norfolk alone. If seen end to end, participating ships would have combined to fill more than 21 football fields. The spectacle of so many ships was experienced by visitors during three Parades of Sail through the Chesapeake Bay, Elizabeth River and the Upper Bay.
During the 12 days of the event, 5 days longer than at other participating ports, more than 1.5 million people attended OpSail 2012 Virginia™ activities, with more than 23% coming from outside the Hampton Roads region. Visitors were able to experience festivities at 8 official Virginia 2012 OpSail locations across the region, including Norfolk, Virginia Beach, Portsmouth, Chesapeake, Hampton, Yorktown, Cape Charles and Onancock. And in post-event surveys, 83% of visitors rated their OpSail Virginia experience as very good or excellent.
The community was actively involved throughout OpSail 2012 Virginia. The project mobilized more than 1,500 volunteers who committed approximately 18,000 volunteer hours. Associated fundraisers generated more than $16,000 in contributions for 12 regional charities. In addition, 4,000 students from 66 schools from as far away as Roanoke and Northern Virginia participated in educational programs. Community support also took the form of considerable financial backing, including more than $4 million raised in private contributions in the form of cash and in-kind services along with more than $1 million provided through media trade partnerships.
Awareness of the Coastal Virginia region and what it has to offer was raised through strong media attention generated by the event. OpSail Virginia generated more than 1,000 video news stories reaching a total of 26 million people. Additionally, more than 500 print and 200 internet stories created close to 700 million positive media impressions for OpSail cities and the state.
Economically, the estimated total impact in OpSail Virginia cities is measured at $150 million. This is greater than the originally projected figure of $120 million target for the event. Most of that came in the form of spending by visitors and attendees to the more than 90 affiliated events and programs. An estimated $3 million was generated in spending by visiting ships in addition to at least $100,000 from recreational boaters.
Noting the positive impact of the event on Virginia Beach, for example, James B. Ricketts, director of the city’s Convention & Visitors Bureau, says, “Thanks to Opsail 2012 activities, including our Patriotic Festival with its air show and tall ship viewing opportunities on the bay, as well as other events across the city, our hospitality business increased for the period. Along with raising the overall profile of the region in an extensive and exciting way, I think you’d have to say that the multicity events proved beneficial to all of the regional players.”
The Hampton Roads Chamber of Commerce is a proud sponsor of the annual Patriotic Festival in Virginia Beach. The Chamber’s affiliate, the Small Business Development Center of Hampton Roads, held free workshops throughout the Southside and Peninsula in February 2012 to prepare businesses for OpSail 2012 Virginia. The small town merchants workshop “TEAM Eventacular: Towns, Events and Merchants: Partnering for Profit” was facilitated by Marc Wilson, Retail Consultant for the Virginia SBDC.
Produced by Norfolk Festevents, OpSail 2012 Virginia™ was recognized in October by the International Festivals and Events Association with a Grand Pinnacle Award, “the highest award reflecting the best overall festival & event in the world,” according to IFEA.
OpSail 2012 Virginia™ was designated as the Commonwealth’s signature event by the Governor and General Assembly to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the War of 1812. The 12-day celebration was held in June at locations spread out across Southeastern Virginia. The event was coordinated and produced by Festevents in Norfolk.
OpSail 2012 Virginia™ was a component of the larger Operation Sail series of events held at a number of U.S. ports. Operation Sail, Inc. is a non-profit organization established in 1961 with the endorsement of President John F. Kennedy. Backed by a Joint Congressional Resolution, its mission is to advance sail training and promote goodwill among nations. To date, it has held five international sailing events—in 1964, 1976, 1986, 1992 and 2000—each tied to a landmark historical event and each culminating in a traditional Parade of Sail in New York Harbor.
For more information: OpSail 2012 Virginia™ (757) 441-2345 www.opsail2012virginia.com