Center Maryland: Baltimore gets to strut next week

Editor’s note: The following commentary appeared on CenterMaryland.org on September 5.

By Donald C. Fry

Next week is the celebration we’ve been waiting for since June 2012 when 1.5 million people descended on Baltimore City to scramble aboard dozens of tall ships and naval vessels, enjoy patriotic ceremonies at Fort McHenry and watch the Navy’s Blue Angels buzz the Inner Harbor and shores of the Patapsco River’s Middle Branch.

It was big fun then, and we’re going to do it again for six days beginning September 10 as our city hosts the Star-Spangled Spectacular to celebrate the 200th anniversary of Francis Scott Key’s writing of our national anthem.

Like Sailabration two years ago, visitors to Baltimore will experience full-tilt port-city fun.

Fifteen tall ships and 17 other visiting ships from around the world will begin arriving on Wednesday, September 10.  The ships, to be berthed at Inner Harbor and Locust Point locations, will be available for afternoon visitors between September 11-15.

The Blue Angels will perform spectacular air shows between 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday.

Saturday evening concerts are scheduled at Fort McHenry and the Pier Six Pavilion followed by what is being billed as the largest fireworks and light display in Baltimore since 1814. The fireworks will be launched from six barges from the Inner Harbor to Fort McHenry and choreographed to a musical score performed by a star-studded lineup of major composers and artists.

Festival villages featuring everything from live entertainment to hands-on fun for kids will be located at the Inner Harbor, Fort McHenry and Martin State Airport, where the Blue Angels will be based. Their FA-18s and other historic planes will be on display at the airport.

Make no mistake, Baltimore is pulling out all of the stops for an upcoming week of major waterfront fun and entertainment.

Not to overstate the obvious, but it’s pretty clear that the combination of warm sunny days, tall ships, the waterfront, an air show, and good attractions and places to eat on the shore constitute a powerful economic combination for Baltimore. The 2012 Sailabration was a significant fiscal success, generating an economic impact of $166 million for the city and the state.

Beyond economics, however, Baltimore has a good reason to celebrate and bring national attention to the often overlooked Battle of Baltimore that essentially ended the War of 1812 and played a pivotal role in the history of our nation.

The 1814 defense of our city helped preserve the young nation after British forces had ransacked Washington, D.C., destroyed the White House, the Capitol and the Navy Yard.

It was a moment in history when Baltimore and our nation said “enough” to the greatest military power of its time. Through heroic efforts of Baltimore’s mayor, citizens at North Point, Patterson Park and soldiers at Fort McHenry, the invaders were turned back here.

In effect, the coming week’s Star-Spangled Spectacular gives Baltimore a unique opportunity to commemorate the night our city helped save America, and to demonstrate to the world Baltimore’s current vitality, spirit and limitless potential.

It will be a week to be proud of Baltimore as residents and visitors alike savor our city and its waterfront at its very best.

The fun begins Wednesday. Feel free to enjoy.

Donald C. Fry is president and CEO of the Greater Baltimore Committee. He is a regular contributor to Center Maryland. He serves as president of Star-Spangled 200. 

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