About 4,500 people made their way to the Halifax Shipyard on Saturday for a first glimpse at the future Canadian naval ship HMCS Harry DeWolf.

Irving Shipbuilding's open house coincided with crews moving outside two large sections of what will eventually form the Arctic offshore patrol ship. 

"Today, everybody gets to see the fruits of the labour over the last six years to really re-establish Canada as a world-class shipbuilding centre for naval ships right here in Nova Scotia. We wanted to have a big party," said Kevin McCoy, president of Irving Shipbuilding.

'We work very, very hard'

The federal government is paying the company for $2.3 billion to build six new Arctic patrol ships by 2022. The armed vessels will allow the navy to better carry out surveillance and enforce Canadian sovereignty.

Saturday's open house was filled with tours, speeches and lots of activities for kids, such as face painting, ice cream and balloon animals.

Halifax Shipyard open house

Dave Pedersen, a naval architect technologist with Irving Shipbuilding, and his son, Caden, were among the 4,500 people at Saturday's open house. (Emma Davie/CBC)

"It's been phenomenal. My family has had such a great time today, checking everything out, playing," said Dave Pedersen, a naval architect technologist with Irving Shipbuilding.

His five-year-old son, Caden Pedersen, was over the moon about a red balloon tiger made for him.

"I'm just amazed with everything that's been put on today. And it's well worth it, because we work very, very hard on these ships," Pedersen said.

Ship made of 3 mega-blocks

HMCS Harry DeWolf mega blocks

HMCS Harry DeWolf will be made up of three mega-blocks welded together. (Emma Davie/CBC)

The 103-metre ship will assembled from three mega-blocks, made up of 21 smaller blocks each. 

The centre and stern of the ship were moved outside this week for further outfitting.

James D. Irving

James D. Irving, co-CEO of J.D. Irving Ltd., speaks to the crowd at Saturday's open house. (Emma Davie/CBC)

Vice-Admiral Ron Lloyd, the commander of the navy, said the ship will first have trials in the water with the Irving team before eventually being turned over to the navy.

"The Canadian Navy is definitely in need of new ships, which is why we're very happy to see the commitment to the new 15 surface combatants, to the Arctic and offshore patrol vessels and the Queenston-class [joint support ships]," he said.

Launch expected in 2018

HMCS Harry DeWolf is expected to launch in 2018.

Cmdr. Corey Gleason will be the first person to captain the ship and its crew of 65 personnel.

"It's a huge historical moment in time for me and my family and the Royal Canadian Navy," Gleason said, adding he was thrilled to see so many people at Saturday's open house.

"To open up the doors, to bring the general public in, I think that's really important for everybody. Because everybody's asking the question: 'What's going on inside there?'"