The clouds didn't exactly part for the Blue Angels, but they lifted just enough Saturday afternoon, the rain stopped, and suddenly three F/A-18 Hornets soared past in tight formation over the southeast edge of the Inner Harbor — the show was on for the Star-Spangled Spectacular.
Thousands of people gathered at the Inner Harbor to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the national anthem waited nearly two hours for a glimpse of the team, as the rain sprinkled on and off, clouds lowered and lifted again, and the Blue Angels waited for safe flying conditions.
Eric Smith and Stephanie White of Annapolis had given up on it, and gone to get a bite to eat at the Pratt Street Ale House. Then they heard the roar of a plane and headed for the Inner Harbor.
"It's always a treat," said White, 25, who remembers first seeing the Blue Angels when she was 6. "It's like being a kid again."
"We're from Annapolis, so we're used to seeing them," said Smith. "It's nice seeing them here in the city, where the echo is much louder."
They stood on the second deck at the Light Street Pavilion with a nice view of the passes the planes made behind the Legg Mason building, nearly over the National Aquarium, then heading north over downtown. The planes also flew to the west of the harbor, treating fans watching the game at Oriole Park at Camden Yards.
Catherine Barton of Glen Burnie was up on the pavilion deck, too, gazing in the general direction of Fort McHenry, which was the focal point of the air show. She had thought about heading to the fort earlier, but the water taxis were too crowded.
"I'm always in the wrong place at the wrong time," she said. "I'm the sort of person who always gets in the wrong line at the grocery store."
Jeanine Fritts of Laytonsville, in town with her husband, Russ, figured it was lucky that the show went on at all, even if it was cut to about a third of the scheduled 90 minutes.
"I think it's great. Considering the weather, it's very impressive," she said.
The couple were debating whether to stay for the fireworks in the evening or wrap it up early. It all depended on the weather, Russ Fritts said.
The rain stopped by the time the Blue Angels made their first close pass at the Inner Harbor about 3:40 p.m., and sun later broke through the clouds, promising clear weather for evening concerts and fireworks, and a fine Sunday for continuing festivities. A series of events that started Sept. 10 commemorate the day in 1814 that Francis Scott Key, a lawyer and amateur poet, was inspired to write "The Star-Spangled Banner" while sitting on a ship watching the British bombardment of Fort McHenry.
Jill Feinberg, spokeswoman for the Star-Spangled Spectacular, said crowds looked good but had no attendance estimate.
The Inner Harbor was crowded with people in rain gear, opening and closing umbrellas in the intermittent light rain. People waited in long lines to board a number of tall ships docked in the harbor. On the West Concert Stage, a group in period costume sang folk songs from the era of the War of 1812, while a Top 40 band at the amphitheater started its show late because of the rain, opening with Stevie Wonder's "Superstition."
Joanne Riley of Albany, N.Y., was counting herself lucky, even if her New York Yankees lost the game she came down to see Friday night. She had no idea that the city was celebrating this historic occasion.
Said Riley, who was in for the weekend with a group of friends, "This was quite a pleasant surprise."