How considerate of the British, to attack Baltimore in 1814 and thus give Baltimoreans, two centuries later, ample excuse to hold a two-year celebration.
As you may have heard by now, Baltimore is kicking off its bicentennial celebration of the War of 1812 in style this week, welcoming tall ships from all over the world — as well as the thousands of visitors hoping to get a look at them. But even after the so-called Star-Spangled Sailabration ends next week, Maryland's commemoration of its pivotal role in America's second war of independence continues — and won't really end until 2014, with the 200th anniversary celebration of the bombardment of Fort McHenry and the writing of the "Star-Spangled Banner."
Here are 10 events planned for the first year of Maryland's War of 1812 Bicentennial celebration.
1. Sailabration OK, you missed the tall ships sailing into port Wednesday. That's OK — there's still plenty of celebrating left, as more than 40 tall ships and naval vessels from throughout the world help Baltimore (and the country) kick off the bicentennial observance. In fact, the big-time stuff is really going on this weekend, with Sailabration Villages set up at the Inner Harbor, Fells Point and Fort McHenry.
Festivities at the Inner Harbor include live music from stages at the Harborplace Amphitheater and west Shore Park, cooking demonstrations and food sampling near the Baltimore Visitor Center, an Adventure Zone (including a rock wall and 70-foot Ferris wheel) at Rash Field, family activities at McKeldin Square and street performers throughout the area. Hours are 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Sunday and Monday, 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Friday and Saturday.
Food and activities will also be available at villages set up at Fells Point (11 a.m.-6 p.m. through Monday) and at Fort McHenry (8 a.m.-10 p.m. tomorrow, 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Sunday). The fort itself will be open for exploration.
Of course, that's in addition to all those ships, most of which will be open for tours, and air shows featuring the Navy's blue angels, set for 1 p.m.-4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. The show takes off from Glenn L. Martin State Airport in Middle River, and can best be viewed from Fort McHenry (sorry, all passes have been distributed) or near MedStar Harbor Hospital on Hanover Street. Fireworks are set for Saturday night at Fort McHenry.
For more information on Sailabration, including a full schedule: 800-266-5699 or starspangled200.com.
2. Chautauqua "Inspiration, Unity, Preparedness, Courage: Maryland and the War of 1812" is the theme of the Maryland Humanities Council's 17th annual Chautauqua, a series of free living history performances running throughout the state July 5-13. Actors portraying such figures as lawyer-poet Francis Scott Key, U.S. flag seamstress Mary Pickersgill, President James Madison and British Major General Robert Ross will entertain visitors at Garrett College in McHenry (July 5-7), The Community College of Baltimore County in Catonsville (July 6-8), Elkton United Methodist Church (July 6-8), Idlewild Park/Londonderry Retirement Community in Easton (July 9-11), The College of Southern Maryland, in La Plata (July 10-12) and Montgomery College-Germantown (July 11-13). Information: 410-685-0095 or mdhc.org.
3. Star-Spangled Summer Camp Kids with a hankering for history can spend a week at Baltimore's Star-Spangled Banner Flaghouse, 844 E. Pratt St., where the banner that so thrilled an apprehensive Francis Scott Key was sewn. For $200, students in grades 3-6 can spend their days from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. playing interactive games, dressing up, listening to or telling stories, building crafts and enjoying a host of other indoor and outdoor activities. Two week-long camps are planned, from July 16-20 and August 6-10. Information: 410-837-1793 or flaghouse.org.
4. Constitution vs. Guerriere battle commemoration Contrary to what some Baltimoreans may believe, there was more to the War of 1812 than what happened at North Point and Fort McHenry. On August 19, 1812, the U.S. frigate Constitution took on the British frigate Guerriere in the first major naval battle of the war (the Constitution won, earning its nickname Old Ironsides and a permanent berth, upon retirement, on the Boston waterfront). The U.S. Navy will celebrate that victory on Aug. 18 at Fort McHenry, with patriotic music (courtesy of the U.S. Navy Band), military pageantry and living history presentations. The program will run from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m., ending with a flag raising and the firing of the fort's large evening gun. Free. Information: 410-962-4290 or nps.gov/fomc.
5. The Bowie Baysox 1812 Night Celebrate two of America's favorite pastimes — baseball and victory — as members of the living history group Ships Company perform the national anthem and wander through the stands in period costume. There will be post-game fireworks, too. Game time is 7:05 p.m. Aug. 24 at Prince George's Stadium, 4101 Crain Hwy (U.S. Route 301) in Bowie. Tickets are $7-$15. Information: 301-779-0371.
6. 1812 Visitor Center Grand Opening Maryland's involvement in the War of 1812 will be spotlighted in this Visitor Center, featuring historical exhibits and information on related activities throughout state over the next two years. An open house is planned, with officials from the British and Canadian embassies present. Representatives from Maryland's Piscataway Indian tribe are also scheduled to attend. 10 a.m.-1 p.m. Aug. 24 at 4601 Annapolis Road in Bladensburg. Information: 301-779-0371.
7. Defenders' Day at North Point Baltimore's involvement in the War of 1812 included more than Fort McHenry and the British bombardment. Before Francis Scott Key took pen to paper, some brave and resourceful Baltimore militia repulsed the British at the Battle of North Point. This year's Defenders' Day celebrations at Fort Howard Park, near the end of North Point road, will include living history, crafts and battle re-enactments. Runs 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Sept. 2. Free. Information: 410-284-2331 or battlenorthpoint.org..
8. Star-Spangled Weekend Celebrate the 198th anniversary of the Battle of Baltimore and bombardment of Fort McHenry in style, and maybe get some ideas for marking 2014's bicentennial commemoration. Planned events include parades, fireworks, re-enactor encampments, patriotic music, even a mock naval bombardment. Activities begin at 6 p.m. Sept. 7, 9 a.m. Sept. 8 and 10:30 a.m. Sept. 9 at Fort McHenry and include a Saturday night fireworks display. Information: 410-962-4290 or nps.gov/fomc.
9. Re-Enactment and Encampment Maryland's largest naval engagement occurred on Sept. 22, 1814, with the Battle of St. Leonard Creek (it ended with a British retreat). That engagement is being commemorated from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sept. 22 at the Jefferson Patterson Park & Museum, 10515 Mackall Road in St. Leonard. Re-enactors will demonstrate camp life and show details of the battle. Admission is $3 per person, $10 per car. Information: 410-586-8515 or jefpat.org.
10. 'The Star-Spangled Banner and All Its Cousins' A program of anthems, ballads and toasts recalling the War of 1812-era will be performed by costumed members of the New Old Theater. 1 p.m. Oct. 13 at the Enoch Pratt Free Library, 1251 Light St. Free. 410-396-1096 or prattlibrary.org.