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Annapolis celebrates two anniversaries Naval Academy and city's capital status marked by illumination


Annapolis celebrated two anniversaries last night in much the same way that a colonial town would have.

Residents, merchants and midshipmen took part in a "grand illumination" to light up the city not with candles and oil lamps but with the glow of 6-inch light sticks that were placed in the windows of homes, shops and dormitories.

The illumination, a traditional celebration of Colonial Annapolis, marked the Naval Academy's 150 years and Annapolis' 300 years as the capital of Maryland.

The celebration brought together hundreds of Annapolitans, Naval Academy alumni and families. The event also brought reflections on the histories of the academy and the city.

"We got 4,000 midshipmen, so we'll always be in good spirit and it carries over the wall," said Annapolis Mayor Al Hopkins, who spoke at a football pep rally in the academy's Halsey Field House before the illumination. "They're not troublemakers, they're here to learn."

Margaret Leary, Class of 1990, and her husband, Lt. Sean Leary, Class of 1988, made the trip from Virginia Beach, Va., with their three children to root on the home team at today's football game against Wake Forest University.

"When I think of Annapolis, I think of the Naval Academy," said Mrs. Leary, 27, who finished her duty this year. "The two go hand in hand."

At the half-hour long pep rally, midshipmen in white and parents in Navy windbreakers and caps cheered "GO NAVY!"

Afterward, they paid tribute to Annapolis, hoisting blue and gold fluorescent light sticks and parading through the city's brick roads, up Main Street to State Circle and back to the academy.

The last time the town was illuminated was to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the state capital -- a well-timed celebration because a power failure that day had plunged the city into darkness.

Illuminations were held in Annapolis beginning in the mid-18th century until the 19th century to mark special occasions. One of the first occurred on Feb. 17, 1752, to celebrate the 21st birthday of the colony's proprietor, Frederick, the sixth Lord Baltimore. Townspeople lighted a bonfire at the city dock and drank from a barrel of punch.

In following years, townspeople placed candles in their windows to celebrate anniversaries and victories -- repeal of the Stamp Act, the signing of the Treaty of Paris and the end of the War of 1812.

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