Tomcat show is a roaring success Enthusiasm high for Annapolis event


The Blue whats?

OK, maybe the hundreds who came out to Dewey and Farragut fields at the Naval Academy yesterday didn't completely forget about the Blue Angels, the precision high-flying aircraft team that usually entertains during Commissioning Week.

But warm weather, blue skies and an unfaltering love for the academy still managed to bring people out for a celebration that featured an ear-shattering demonstration by a single Navy F-14B Super Tomcat.

The Tomcat, out of Oceana, Va., replaced the Blue Angels after investigators looking into the Tailhook scandal asked one of the key members of the Blue Angels to make himself available this week in case he was needed to answer questions.

Academy officials said the crowd was smaller than usual. There were plenty of places to sit down on the fields -- a marked contrast to previous years, when people crowded in practically shoulder to shoulder.

But Tomcat or Blue Angels, true aircraft lovers and a few sun and party worshipers could not be kept away. Long before and after the air show, crowds of people could be found catching rays, flying discs or chicken wings from picnic baskets.

There were people like Robert Miller and Joe Wilson, both 36, who haven't missed an air show in years.

"We're both die-hard Annapolitans," Dr. Miller said. "We wouldn't care if it was a kite they were flying. We'd still be here. We're great supporters of the Naval Academy."

The two men were not alone in their support. As flight time approached, crowds of people began inching their way closer to the Severn River to get a better view. Binoculars in hand, fingers pressed in their ears and heads turned up in the most awkward of positions, the crowd didn't seem to miss the usual show too much.

"It's different," said Seaman Mark Cooper, 23. "But it's still interesting, and it's still exciting. Any time you get to see something you don't see everyday, it's exciting."

Jeff Gill, 38, came down from Lancaster, Pa., to see the air show. He has made the trip to Annapolis to see the Blue Angels for several years now, but their absence didn't deter him.

"I like the flying, and I like to listen to the sounds," Mr. Gill said. "I certainly would rather see the Blue Angels, but this was a good show. A little short, but good."

Mr. Gill brought along his friend Maryann Hershey, 38. A first-time visitor to an air show, Ms. Hershey said she enjoyed herself. "I didn't know they were going to be so close," she said.

The Proctor family came together from disparate points that included New York, Chula Vista, Calif.; and Savannah, Atlanta and Macon, Ga., to see the air show, among other things. "Our second son is graduating from the Naval Academy," Louise Proctor, 57, said of her son, Brian. "One graduated from the Academy in 1990."

Ulysses Proctor, 54, said his family arrived in Annapolis Thursday and has made every event the academy has sponsored for Commissioning Week. "We haven't missed a beat," he said.

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