Annapolis is preparing this week to host its first-ever college football bowl game. Festivities for the 2013 Military Bowl on Friday, Dec. 27 will include several events in and around the city — a parade, a tailgate party, a concert and a nationally televised game between the University of Maryland and Marshall.
"It's just a positive experience, hopefully, for everyone involved," said Steve Beck, executive director of the Military Bowl.
Tens of thousands of fans are expected to descend on Annapolis for the bowl game at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium. Events will lead to street closures, heavy traffic and a crunch on parking.
Annapolis city officials are hoping to prevent problems by offering extra Circulator trolley buses, which will be free, and spreading the word about parking options and the day's activities.
Now in its sixth year, the Military Bowl previously has been held at RFK Stadium in Washington. For the first two years, it was known as the EagleBank Bowl. In the bowl's first year, Navy lost to Wake Forest, 29-19.
This year, while some pregame events and the host hotels remain in Washington, the game day is focused squarely on Annapolis.
"I think it's going to be fun and be the beginning of what will be a long-term relationship in Annapolis," said Frank DiVenti, director of promotions for the Annapolis and Anne Arundel County Conference and Visitors Bureau.
In Annapolis, bowl-related events start at 11 a.m. with a parade, which will run backward from the normal parade route in the capital city: It will start at City Dock, travel up Main Street, around Church Circle to College Avenue and then up Bladen Street/Rowe Boulevard, ending at the stadium.
The parade will feature bands from Maryland and Marshall, Medal of Honor winners, the Budweiser Clydesdale horse team, youth football champions, pageant winners and more. The grand marshal will be Marine Corps Sgt. Maj. Bryan B. Battaglia, the top-ranking noncommissioned officer in the U.S. armed forces. He's also the senior enlisted adviser to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
The parade also will include Marine Corps veteran and runner Jamie Summerlin, who ran across the country in 2012 to raise money for veterans returning from war. This year, he's completing a 24-hour, 101-mile run from Shepherdstown, W.Va., to Annapolis, ending the morning of the Military Bowl. He hopes to raise $100,000.
All roads on the parade route will be closed from at least 11 a.m. until 11:45 a.m., reopening as the parade passes. Officials say the entire parade should take 90 minutes from start to finish.
Because of the parade, parking is prohibited at City Dock and on Main Street from 7:30 a.m. until noon.
At Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium, a tailgate party featuring multiple bands, kids activities and food and drinks will begin at 10 a.m. Tailgating will be in the blue parking lot, which is the side of the stadium away from Rowe Boulevard.
The game kicks off at 2:30 p.m. with military pomp: a flyover by a B-25 bomber, the landing of a parachute team and the national anthem sung by 4Troops, an ensemble featuring four recent combat veterans.
Bowl organizers expect the game to be a sellout. Not only are thousands of Maryland and Marshall fans expected, but there also will be a large contingent of members of the military, veterans, wounded warriors and their families. The stadium's capacity is 34,000.
To prepare for the crush of visitors, the city will run a free Circulator trolley bus and will offer an extended route in addition to the normal route. The normal route loops from City Dock, up Main Street, around Church Circle to Park Place and then returning to City Dock, stopping at all city-owned parking garages along the way. The Circulator begins service at 8 a.m.
The extended Circulator route will run from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. on game day, picking up passengers at Park Place and traveling down Taylor Avenue to the stadium.
A free shuttle bus service between the Harry S. Truman park-and-ride lot off of Riva Road and the stadium will be offered by Annapolis Bus Company, from 9 a.m. until 7:30 p.m.
As for parking, the city encourages visitors to park in garages, which are open around the clock: Hillman Garage on Gorman Street, Gotts Court Garage on Northwest Street, Knighton Garage on Colonial Avenue and Park Place Garage. Parking also is available at Germantown Elementary School near the stadium starting at 8 a.m. and at the stadium itself starting at 10 a.m. Stadium parking must be purchased in advance.
The Military Bowl is sponsored by Northrop Grumman and benefits the USO. Organizers have committed to donating at least $100,000 to the USO.
The print edition of this story published on Dec. 22 gave an incorrect time for the start of the tailgate party. It has been corrected here.