Ships from six foreign countries and all over the East Coast, plus Texas, will be coming to Baltimore in September for the city's Star-Spangled Spectacular celebration, Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake announced Tuesday morning.

As part of the Battle of Baltimore and bombardment of Fort McHenry commemoration, former Secretary of State Colin Powell will visit the fort the morning of Sept. 14. He will take part in an early-morning ceremony recalling the moment Francis Scott Key saw a giant flag flying over the fort and was inspired to write the poem that would become "The Star-Spangled Banner."

In addition to dozens of ships from Maryland and seven other states, vessels from the United Kingdom, Canada, Norway, Germany, Spain and Turkey will be berthed at or near the Inner Harbor. They are scheduled to arrive on Sept. 10 and depart six days later, with the public able to visit Sept. 11-15.

Promising to put on "a patriotic festival like this country has never seen," Rawlings-Blake announced the Star-Spangled Spectacular details inside the Inner Harbor's Baltimore Visitor Center on Tuesday. She joined several other dignitaries, including Governor Martin O'Malley, in describing events planned for the celebration, which runs Sept. 10-16.

The bicentennial celebration, which began in earnest two years ago when more than a million people visited the city's Star-Spangled Sailabration, has been a project of both the mayor and governor. "It's something that I felt deserved a world-class celebration," Rawlings-Blake said.

O'Malley, an avowed history fan who has been known to show up at bicentennial celebrations in full period uniform, attempted to put the events of 1814 in perspective. Noting the successful defense of Baltimore was key in winning what is often called the second war for American independence, O'Malley spoke of "echoes" that continue to reverberate.

The first British ships appeared in Baltimore, he noted, on Sept. 11, 1814, just weeks after the British burned Washington. Recalling the events of Sept. 11, 2001, when terrorists struck the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, O'Malley noted, "We are the first generation of Americans in 200 years to see our national buildings under attack."

A special Sept. 11 ceremony is planned for Fort McHenry, at which the national 9/11 flag, which flew above the wreckage at Ground Zero in New York, will be on display -- along with a piece of the flag that flew over Fort McHenry and the original manuscript of Key's poem.

Star-Spangled Spectacular will also include flyovers from the U.S. Navy's Blue Angels, scheduled for 2-4 p.m. Sept. 13 and 14, as well as festival villages at the Inner Harbor (Sept. 12-14), Fort McHenry (Sept. 12-14) and Martin State Airport in Baltimore County (Sept. 13-14).

Also announced was a full schedule of concert performances, set for Sept. 12-14 on stages at the Inner Harbor Amphitheater, nearby West Shore Park and Fort McHenry. Performers include Ken Kolodner, the Crawdaddies, Duende, the Naval Academy Band's Electric Brigade and the Royal Norwegian Navy Band.

In addition, the celebration will feature a family fun zone and a 90-foot Ferris wheel lit up in red, white and blue.
 
Security measures were announced for visitors to Fort McHenry, Martin State Airport and the Navy ships. Visitors will only be able to carry a single clear bag, about the size of a one-gallon freezer bag, and small clutch-type bags about the size of a hand. Prohibited items include outside food or beverages (other than a "reasonable" amount of baby food), chairs or stools, ice packs, coolers and banners, posters or signs. Bag searches will be carried out, and magnetometers and X-ray machines will be on-site.

Baltimore's Star-Spangled Spectacular celebrates the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Baltimore during the War of 1812 with Great Britain. While being held on a British ship in Baltimore harbor, lawyer Francis Scott Key witnessed the bombardment of Fort McHenry on the night of Sept. 13, 1814. When, the next morning, he saw an American flag still flying over the fort, he was inspired to write the poem that was later put to music and adopted as the U.S. national anthem.

A full schedule of events, plus other information on the Star-Spangled Spectacular, can be found at starspangled200.com.

Chris.Kaltenbach@baltsun.com