September 30, 2023
Annapolis, US 62 F

Has Annapolis Seen The Last Of The Blue Angels?

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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