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Has Annapolis Seen The Last Of The Blue Angels?

| May 28, 2011, 09:59 AM | 16 Comments

As disappointing as it is, I believe that Annapolis may have seen their last Blue Angels airshow in May 2010. While thousands of families (including my own) consider the show a public holiday, I believe that with the canceled show this year, coupled with the canceled show for next year will result in this fabulous tradition being discontinued.

The Past

A bit of history first; the Blue Angels, also known as the US Navy Flight Demonstration Squadron have performed at Commissioning Week for more than 50 years–nearly their whole existence. Barring severe weather, they have flown every year over the Severn River to the cheers of the midshipmen, resident, and visitors alike.

Last year, Vice Admiral Jeffrey Fowler moved the date of graduation into June, after Memorial Day which created an issue with various entities in terms of logistics. In June, vehicle traffic is heavier and closing a bridge and creating an attractive distraction for two days was problematic for the Maryland State Highway Administration. For the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, the Annapolis Harbormaster,  and the US Coast Guard, boat traffic picks up as well, and closing the Annapolis Harbor and the Severn River for two shows proves to be problematic.  As a result, the Blue Angels preemptively canceled the Annapolis show for 2013 and accepted another invitation to perform. We were the first to report his back in December of 2010. After a series of unpopular changes at the Academy and in the shadow of an unfavorable audit of finances, Vice Admiral Fowler was transferred from the US Naval Academy and Vice Admiral Michael H. Miller was appointed the 61st Superintendent.

The Present

Vice Admiral Miller understood tradition and undid some of the changes made by Fowler. Most notably, the Herndon Monument Climb which was scheduled to be eliminated, was returned in its full glory complete with lard! As Vice Admiral Miller says, “Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead!” It is our understanding that he is also making an attempt (along with the academy’s alumni) to have the graduation ceremony moved back to the present time schedule for 2013 and beyond.  But there are a lot of logistics involved with moving the date back and it is not as easy as it seems and no one has been given any assurances that Miller’s requests will be approved. Of course for this year, a safety stand-down canceled the show at the last minute. The flyover during the graduation ceremony is still scheduled for 2012 and likely will continue well into the future.

The Future

So, if the Superintendent is pushing for the return of the Blue Angels, why wouldn’t they come back? I think it will come down to dollars. As we struggle to recover from an economy that is in the tank, the local or state governments simply do not have the spare dollars to put towards the tradition. The airshow is a financial burden on the City of Annapolis, Anne Arundel County, the State of Maryland, and the US Coast Guard (to a lesser extent).

The official events that surround the airshow are costly for the US Naval Academy Alumni Association which is the non-profit fundraising arm for the Academy. By not hosting two very large events, there will be considerable savings.

From an economic point of view, the absence of the Blue Angels will have a minimal impact on local businesses. Visitors (mostly friends and family of graduates) will still be in town to add dollars to merchant’s bank accounts and taxes to the municipal coffers. Local residents likely do not support the local economy any more or less than they do simply because of the Blue Angels. The hotels will be full. The restaurants will be full. The t-shirts will be flying out the doors of the t-shirt shops. Yes, some of the boat charters will be impacted since there is no better place for viewing the show than in the middle of the Severn River. And the catering and event companies will also be pinched for those two days.

The Blue Angels put their schedule together two years in advance. Currently they are on schedule for a flyover only in 2012. The 2013 schedule has not been released yet.

I predict that if Vice Admiral Miller is successful in getting approval to move the graduation back before Memorial Day, there will be a push back from the state and local governments. By 2013, we will have been two years without the Blue Angels and I suspect that the local and state governments will realize a cost savings due to the absence and local businesses will not see any significant drop in their own revenues.

Traditions have been changed. The Herndon Climb was almost eliminated. Midshipmen are no longer allowed to jump in a fountain (or College Creek) after the final Color Parade. The Chesapeake Bay Bridge Walk appears to have been permanently scuttled. As unfortunate as it is, I believe that this tradition is coming to a close as well. I hope I am wrong, but if not, remember, you read it here first!

What do you think? Please leave a comment!

If you would like to revisit last year’s show, here is a link to our photos.

Note: This is an opinion post. As it stands now, the Blue Angels will be performing a flyover at next year’s graduation ceremony but no airshow. Their 2013 schedule has not been released and there are entities pushing to have them return in 2013 along with a return of the graduation ceremony to before the Memorial Day holiday.

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Category: Events, LIFE IN THE AREA, OPINION

About the Author - John Frenaye

John is the publisher and editor of Eye On Annapolis. As a resident and business owner in Anne Arundel County for nearly 25 years, he realized that there was something missing in terms of community news–and Eye On Annapolis was born in late spring 2009.

John’s background is in the travel industry as a business owner, industry speaker, and travel writer. In terms of blogging and social media, he cut his teeth with MSNBC.com.

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Comments (16)

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  1. Kevin says:

    Disagree… if the graduation is moved back into May, there won’t be push back from state/local leaders. Why would there be realistically – it’s not the economic realities that will drive local businesses, but the perception. There is an increase in tourism associated with the Airshow… there was quite a clamor with the cancellation this year from locals as well.

    I predict a return of the airshow in 2014 (possibly 2013) – care to wager a pint of Guinness? :)

  2. John Frenaye says:

    I don’t do Guinness, and I will gladly take the wager and hope that I lose!

    Traditions are changing. Herndon was almost gone, they no longer jump into the Creek/Fountain, the Bay Bridge Walk, etc. I disagree that the increase in the tourism is due to the airshow per se. The crowds are here for a series of events of which the airshow is one. For a financial boost, performing at Baltimore’s Inner Harbor makes more sense.

    But having an “early” show cancelled (2011) and having the ability to compare that to a “late” show being cancelled, I fear that the powers that be will not see any positive economic impact, but only the negative economic impact. Keeping in mind that absent some boat charters, caterers, party rental firms, that target the show specifically, most people are already here for the other events scheduled around commissioning week.

    I suspect that the 2013 dates are already filling up for the Blue Angels and I also suspect that they will not wait for the brass in the Pentagon or the Academy to make a decision before committing themselves in 2013 to another demonstration.

    We will see!

  3. Veronica says:

    I can see both sides of the coin, but my heart is with keeping the airshow.

  4. I share your concern that the absence might create an inertia that’s hard to reverse, but I also don’t think you can compare the Blue Angels flying during Commissioning Week to the Bay Bridge Walk. The second is not what I consider a “tradition” – at least not one with the kind of meaning and value of the Blue Angels performance. Herndon is such a tradition, and as such, has been put back in place. I wish I could have given Fowler a kick in the back end as he exited (was forced out). Fingers crossed that someone will advocate for the return of the Blue Angels. It’s too special an event to let go easily.

  5. Bob McWilliams says:

    The Blue Angels are more than an air show or an economic event, they are a salute to the graduating class at the Naval Academy.

    Traditions are important, and eliminating them for the sake of convenience, or as with the Herndon climb, because “someone might get hurt”, is to cheat generations to come from the joy of risk and reward realized by generations past.

    Increasingly, we’re all coddled in the safety of our homes, steralized from all threats and dangers, real or perceived, watching people living life on our tv, instead of getting out and doing it ourselves.

    Don’t throw candy at the midshipmen when they walk to the stadium (you could put an eye out); don’t have the Herndon climb (you might slip and fall); don’t have the Blue Angels (we need to close all the roads because they’s a .00001% chance a plane could fly into the Rt. 50 bridge). Geesh, aren’t we all getting a little old to still be crying for mommy. I wish the adults would come home and stop some of this nonsense.

  6. John Frenaye says:

    I agree. And for right or wrong, traditions do change. Herndon was not decided until very late in the game to a) come back and b) be greased. Candy throwing is verboten. Mids are no longer allowed to jump in the creek after the final Color Parade.

    The chance of running into a bridge is likely not the issue at all. For 2012 (or any date where graduation is moved beyond Memorial Day) the argument will be the added traffic on the water and roads will be significant enough to disallow it. The solution is to leave it where it is.

    My fear is that without the Angels for 2 years in a row, they will become “not so missed” and in discussing the show for future years 2013 and beyond, the question will come up if it makes sense to continue to do it from a practical point of view (traditions aside). I know that the Alumni Association does a lot of work surrounding the two shows. I am sure the academy also has significant cost. But since it is a regional impact, you need to look at the cost impact on the city, county, state. And then compare it to any revenue boost that may come.

    Very few people are in town this week specifically for the Blue Angels. They are in town for the commissioning week and graduation ceremony. They will still be here next year and beyond.

  7. Don Thompson says:

    I gasped when I heard the show was cancelled.. I almost couldn’t believe my ears. My children were just as disappointed. I truly believe the Angels bring a little boost to Annapolis. I’ve brought and/or invited people to come out to the show and immediately afterward we spent the remainder of the afternoon shopping and eating at the local restaurants. If the Angels don’t come to Annapolis, I’ll go to them. I’ll attempt to take my family to see them anytime they are within a reasonable drive.. and afterward I will patronize the local establishments. Boo hiss to Fowler for “fouling” up tradition. God Speed to Vice Admiral Miller in bringing back the Naval traditions that make this town so unique and great.

  8. Melissa says:

    I think you are being overly dramatic and definitely negative. The 2012 Commissioning Week is scheduled Thursday-Tuesday with Commissioning/Graduation Ceremony on Tuesday. This would put the Air Show on Saturday and Sunday – Memorial Day weekend. The Blue Angles have long standing obligations to be else where on Memorial Day weekend that were put into place long before the 2012 Graduation week was changed.

    This year’s flight show was cancelled due to safety concerns – and the squadron commander has voluntarily stepped down after that incident. Don’t snowball everything together when they are completely seperate events.

    The candy throwing got nixed due to all the trash that was being left on the streets wich was not very environmentally friendly or cost effective. Do we really need to pay for street sweeper after each parade? An easy fix is that we just don’t throw candy. In speaking to the Mids we sponsor, they thought it was fun but don’t miss it. They are adults who understand the reasoning behind the “tradition” being stopped.

    Again, you don’t do your reasearch and offer up a negative opinion that does nothing for our fair city of Annapolis.

  9. John Frenaye says:

    I don’t think I am being overly dramatic. I realize that the two cancellations were two separate events. As of this writing the future graduations are indeed after Memorial Day which will preclude the Angels from flying in Annapolis due to their other longstanding commitment to the Jones Beach Airshow (I believe).

    But as you said, “Do we really need to pay for a street sweeper after each parade?” my argument is based on similar logic. The parades are still going off without the tradition tossing candy at the mids. The local municipality has saved money by not paying a street sweeper to do the job. Attendance at the games is still at record levels and the absence of tossing the candy is no longer missed. Although when it was initially axed, there was an uproar if you recall.

    My argument is that by happenstance, the shows will be canceled for two years straight. During that time, the City, County, and State will likely realize a cost savings for them NOT being here–traffic control, road closures, overtime, crowd control, etc. And since the influx of visitors is not due primarily to the Blue Angels (they are here for the commissioning week), the visitor numbers (and subsequent tax benefits and local sales) will not be impacted too significantly. I spoke to the owner of a charter boat company who was sold out for the practice and the show and they did not have one cancellation.

  10. Jamesrfitz says:

    Actually, I believe Mr. Frenaye is correct.  While the military is not quick to embrace change, it still is not immune to national trends and what we have on display from Wall Street is that companies must operate lean and mean, eliminating “un-necessary” expenditures to ensure greater profits for stock holders.  This is translated in politics to eliminating government spending for anything but defense, including the arts, national parks, etc. Something like the Blue Angels therefore becomes frivolous in the eye of deficit hawks and thus is prone to elimination.  If the trend continues, we can expect to see an elimination of military music programs (recordings have already replaced bugles at some veterans’ cemetaries), then finer architecture, art, recreation programs, and sports at our military schools.  Ultimately, the new traditions of frugality will dampen and diminish the spirit to the point that conscription will be the only way to fill the ranks. Our national heritage will have been lost by then (since funding the preservation of our history is already perceived as a waste of money by some in Congress). So yes, this tradition will go, unless our leaders show some love for these time honored things.  Wall Street and those who would slash our national budget will rejoice, most of us will adjust, new generations will not remember, and our nation will go the way of Rome.

  11. John Frenaye says:

    This comment was left by jamesrfitz and was somehow lost when we were upgrading the comments on the site:

    Actually, I believe Mr. Frenaye is correct. While the military is not quick to embrace change, it still is not immune to national trends and what we have on display from Wall Street is that companies must operate lean and mean, eliminating “un-necessary” expenditures to ensure greater profits for stock holders. This is translated in politics to eliminating government spending for anything but defense, including the arts, national parks, etc. Something like the Blue Angels therefore becomes frivolous in the eye of deficit hawks and thus is prone to elimination. If the trend continues, we can expect to see an elimination of military music programs (recordings have already replaced bugles at some veterans’ cemetaries), then finer architecture, art, recreation programs, and sports at our military schools. Ultimately, the new traditions of frugality will dampen and diminish the spirit to the point that conscription will be the only way to fill the ranks. Our national heritage will have been lost by then (since funding the preservation of our history is already perceived as a waste of money by some in Congress). So yes, this tradition will go, unless our leaders show some love for these time honored things. Wall Street and those who would slash our national budget will rejoice, most of us will adjust, new generations will not remember, and our nation will go the way of Rome.

  12. Veronica says:

    I think we need a Congress that will legislate more efficiently and intelligently so that we don’t go the way of Rome!

  13. Don Thompson says:

    Heck, while they’re at it, why not nix the 4th of July and New Years’ fireworks. Think of all the money they can save and the huge “environmental impact”…. SAVE IT! I mean, it’s only a time honored tradition, right. Gotta draw the line somewhere. The Blue Angels will be back I’m sure of it.

  14. John Frenaye says:

    The difference is 4th of July IS the event. Blue Angels is only a PART of commissioning week

  15. Melissa says:

    Mr. Frenaye, please check your facts. Class of 2013 Graduation has been reinstated to the Friday before Memorial Day. As Sponsor parents, we received notification of that two months ago and the letter stated that precluding significant changes, graduations will continue to be on this day.

    The Blue Angels will be back. There are not major road closures – just the Naval Academy bridge so it does not require overtime, crowd control, etc, so the city and especially not the state don’t have price tags on this. The Naval Academy does for their crowds but as you say, those people are here already. I have lived close to DTA for 10 years and worked in DTA for the last 8 years so I know of what I speak.

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