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OpSail 2012: Bringing history to TCC’s doorstep

An enthusiastic parade of Tidewater Community College students, faculty and staff welcomed the Juan Sebastian De Elcano, the Spanish tall ship “adopted” by the college for the historic Parade of Sail during OpSail.

Wearing specially designed t-shirts and carrying TCC pennants, the contingent, led by Vice President for Institutional Advancement James Toscano and organized by Assistant Professor of English Phyllis Gowdy, made its way down Boush Street to Waterside in anticipation of the majestic Parade of Sail.

“To be a student at TCC and have the opportunity to be involved in something this historic is great,” said Louie Gibbs, president of the Student Government Association on the Portsmouth Campus. “I’m a history major, so this means a lot. This event adds so much value to the city; usually you see stuff like this on ‘Pirates of the Caribbean.’ ”

Under a steamy sun, Toscano greeted Lt. Cmdr. Francisco J. Villegas. The students cheered the Juan Sebastian De Elcano, a training ship for the Spanish Navy. The four-masted topsail, steel-hulled schooner named for the famed Spanish explorer was built in 1927 and extends 370 feet long, the third largest Tall Ship in the world.

TCC student Irene Lozano, a native of the southern part of Seville in Spain, watched with awe at the pageantry of the afternoon, which included a performance by the Spanish military band, a cannon salute and a visit from Spanish ambassador Ramόn Gil-Casares.

“It is exciting to see the uniforms,” said Lozano, working toward an associate of science. “It makes me miss home.”

Professor Alan Flanders, whose history club sponsored an archaeological dig for children in front of the Andrews Science Building, was thrilled by the pomp associated with the event.

“This is living history, and that’s what is important about TCC participation,” he said. “This is 200 years of maritime history, and this is about living our heritage. Each ship has character, a personality, that’s not just in the rigging. Each ship carries a national flag. Maritime is an international community.”

Other OpSail events sponsored by TCC included educational lectures, historical artifact displays, planetarium shows, family “digs” and tours of TCC’s research vessel, The Maury.

Chris Huffman, Student Government vice-president of the Virginia Beach Campus, was among the former military members present for the festivities. “To me this is a big deal and I think the entire federation feels it’s a big deal,” he said. “It’s a form of giving back for students, especially with TCC being such a huge military-centered school.”