Annapolis and the Naval Academy are preparing for a week of festivities to mark the end of the academic year and the commissioning of a new batch of officers — including a return of the Navy's Blue Angels elite flight team.
The Blue Angels have not performed their traditional Commissioning Week shows over the Severn River since 2010.
The 2011 performance was canceled after a safety concern emerged at another air show, the 2012 show was canceled because of a scheduling conflict and the 2013 show was a victim of federal government budget cuts.
Before the Blue Angels roar over Annapolis, Commissioning Week kicks off Monday with the annual Herndon Climb.
Freshmen midshipmen — "plebes" — will attempt to scale a 21-foot-tall obelisk monument greased with lard by upperclassmen. Once they remove a plebe's "Dixie cup" hat and replace it with a midshipman's cover, they'll be able to declare "Plebes no more!" The Herndon Climb begins at 1:30 p.m. Last year's plebes scaled Herndon in 1 hour, 32 minutes and 43 seconds.
The Blue Angels return Tuesday with a practice run before a full air show Wednesday over the Severn River.
On both days, all gates to the Naval Academy's yard will be closed to vehicles between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m. and the Naval Academy Bridge will be closed from 10:45 a.m. until 1 p.m. and again from 1:45 p.m. until the conclusion of the aerial maneuvers or 4 p.m. There also will be restrictions in the waters around Annapolis and flight restrictions for pilots in the area both days.
The official air show is scheduled for 2 p.m. Wednesday and visitors can view the show from the Naval Academy's Ingram Field, Farragut Field and Hospital Point. The Naval Academy encourages Blue Angels spectators not to bring bags, to allow for speedier security checks.
Blue Angels spectators are encouraged to walk to the academy through Gate 1 (Randall Street), Gate 3 (Maryland Avenue) or Gate 8 (Route 450). Only drivers with Department of Defense credentials or handicapped credentials will be allowed on academy grounds Tuesday and Wednesday.
On Friday, about 1,000 midshipmen will graduate and be commissioned as officers, mostly for the Navy and the Marine Corps.
U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel will deliver the graduation address at the ceremony, which will be held at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium. In the event of inclement weather, the ceremony will be moved to Alumni Hall. The ceremony starts at 10 a.m. with a flyover by the Blue Angels at 10:04 a.m.
Graduation is not open to the general public but will be streamed online at pentagonchannel.mil.
For friends and relatives of graduates with tickets, the stadium's parking lot opens at 6:30 a.m. and the stadium opens at 7 a.m.
Annapolis police warn that there will be traffic congestion on roads leading to the stadium, especially between 7 a.m. and 10 a.m. and again after 1 p.m. There may be rolling road closures to allow the Brigade of Midshipmen to march to the stadium for the ceremony.
From Monday through Thursday, the Naval Academy encourages visitors to park at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium and take advantage of a shuttle bus, which will stop at the stadium's Gate 5 on the Taylor Avenue side every 30 minutes.
A full schedule of Commissioning Week activities is posted at usna.edu/CommissioningWeek.
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