MANITOWOC, Wis. (WFRV) — Thursday afternoon, the S.S. Badger pulled into port in Manitowoc for the first time of the 2021 season.
“It’s always kind of the unofficial kick-off to summer here in Manitowoc,” Mayor Justin Nickels said.
This year, the ferry is under new ownership.
The Interlake Steamship Company announced its purchase of the ferry in December 2020.
“It’s a neat service, and really a part of these two communities, so it’s great to be a part of it,” Mark Barker, President of Interlake Maritime Services said.
A part of a tradition that brings all kinds of people out to the dock in Manitowoc.
Thursday, marching bands and a crowd of locals met the ship as it docked.
“Everyone said, ‘Just wait, you get to Manitowoc, it’s going to be quite a show,’ and I said, ‘Yeah, it’s going to be cool.’ You really can’t take it in until you pull in and see. It’s special. It’s hard to explain that one,” Barker said.
This year they have even more to celebrate.
“Last year, obviously, the tourism all over took a hit with Covid,” Mayor Nickels explained, “so we’re excited to hopefully get back to it this summer and welcome a lot of people who might have taken last summer off, welcome them back to Manitowoc.”
The fanfare caught some passengers off guard
“It was a surprise, I didn’t expect that, I didn’t realize this was the maiden voyage of the season,” Cory Lind of Muskegon, Michigan said. “We’re in the process of moving, I loaded up my car, I have a job interview in De Pere tomorrow.”
For Lind, the excitement at the dock served as a warm welcome to Wisconsin.
“I can’t wait to be here,” he said. “People here are friendly, it’s a whole different world.”
“There’s a lot of businesses downtown and all throughout the community that are just excited to welcome all these passengers and tourists to Manitowoc this summer,” Mayor Nickels said.
Those passengers will make the trip on a ferry with generations of history in Lake Michigan.
“The engine room on this boat’s amazing,” Barker said. “The history of this boat is amazing, and then what it does for these communities is amazing.”