Toledo welcomes Navy ships and seamen at downtown ceremonies

The USS Niagara pulls into port for Navy Week arrival ceremonies.

Crowds stretched down the banks of the Maumee River Thursday to welcome ships to downtown Toledo for Navy Week.

Mayor Michael Bell was on hand to greet seamen and coast guard members as the sailing vessels pulled into port by the Maritime Plaza and International Park.

"I think it's a great educational experience for all of Northwest Ohio," Bell said. "It gives us a great appreciation for the capabilities of our navy."

The week-long schedule of events is a tribute to the 200th anniversary of the War of 1812. The USS Dewert, USS Ohio, USS Hurricane, and USS Niagara all sailed in for the events. The Niagara made the journey from Erie, Pa. Her Captain Wesley Heerssen has been at the helm of the reconstructed warship for about nine years.

"It's been about about five or six years since we've been to Toledo," Heerssen said. "It's been a nice weather pattern over the great lakes the last week for sailing."

The USS Niagara was commandeered by Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry during the Battle of Lake Erie in 1813. Perry's efforts helped the United States defeat the British squadron and secure control over the Great Lakes west of the Niagara River. The ship was demilitarized and sunk in 1820 before being rebuilt in 1913. In 1988 it was reconstructed again and has sailed as a salute to one of the significant U.S. victories of the War of 1812.

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