Fleet Week will take place in various locations in the Baltimore area from Oct. 10 to Oct. 17. (Brittany Britto/Baltimore Sun video)
Sea and sky will set the stage for the first Maryland Fleet Week & Air Show, expected to draw 500,000 visitors Oct. 10-17 throughout the Baltimore area to see the Blue Angels, historic vessels and a ship commissioning.
Historic Ships in Baltimore, the Maryland Office of Tourism, Visit Baltimore and members of the U.S. Navy on Tuesday morning announced the lineup of festivities, which will include airshows, ship tours, meet-and-greets with pilots and festivals.
"It's a great opportunity to not only show the fleet and allow the sailors to interact with the local communities to bring our military and our communities closer together, but it's also a tremendous event that we can use to unite us," U.S. Navy Rear Admiral Yancy B. Lindsey said of the event, which will succeed the 2012 Star-Spangled Sailabration event and the Star-Spangled Spectacular in 2014. "And in our country at these times, we need the types of event that will bring us together, that will celebrate our shared purpose and our shared destiny."
Guests can view more than 40 sailboats and schooners Oct. 9-11 in Canton and in the Great Chesapeake Bay Schooners' Parade of Sail in the Inner Harbor on Oct. 12. The Great Chesapeake Bay Schooners Race, a tradition that has been around for more than 25 years, will take place on Oct. 13, with a castoff at 8:30 a.m. and the race beginning at 1:30 p.m. at the Bay Bridge.
U.S. and Canadian Navy ships will arrive starting Oct. 12, and will feature tours throughout the week at the Inner Harbor, Locust Point and Fells Point, and an official welcome ceremony at the Inner Harbor Amphitheater at noon Oct. 13.
A state-of-the-art destroyer, the USS Zumwalt, will be commissioned Oct. 15. Named for Admiral Elmo "Bud" Zumwalt Jr., it features a "stealth profile, tumblehome hull, and long-range weaponry," according to a news release.
The Blue Angels will perform in the sky Oct. 15-16 at Fort McHenry with a downtown show Oct. 16.
The Fleet Week will come to an end with the "Great Oyster and Chesapeake Seafood Festival" at the Inner Harbor on Oct. 16 before the ships depart Oct. 17.
Most events are free, excluding many of the receptions, which are ticketed or invite-only, and the "Meet the Fleet" event scheduled for Oct. 14, which requires visitors to pay admission.
Rear Admiral Roy J. Kelley,* a commander for U.S Navy's Carrier Strike Group 12, said the events would give sailors a chance to "show the people of Maryland and Baltimore specifically what their Navy is all about."
Benjamin H. Wu, the deputy secretary and chief operating officer of the Maryland Department of Commerce, said the celebration would likely contribute to the state's economic growth, which already benefits from the existing 20 military facilities and 12 major installations within the state, he said.
"Maryland's $57.4 billion military presence provides 17 percent of our state's total output economically, so it's quite a significant amount," said Wu.
Wu compared the possible impact of Fleet Week to the likes of free light festival Light City Baltimore, which contributed a total of $33.8 million to the local economy during its inaugural run in March and April, according to marketing research firm Forward Analytics. The weeklong festival attracted more than 400,000 attendees, 176,000 who were out-of-towners.
"Being able to celebrate the Fleet Week & Air Show Baltimore in October not only celebrates what our defense capabilities are and the protection of our country, but also it underscores Maryland's intent economically," Wu said.