Star Spangled Spectacular Weekend

September 10-16 Baltimore is celebrating the 200th anniversary of the writing of the Star Spangled Banner by Francis Scott Key at the end of the Battle of Baltimore at the end of the War of 1812. You may recall that two years ago Baltimore hosted Sailabration to commemorate the beginning of the War of 1812, which designed to initially end in this week’s celebration, which is being billed as the biggest event that Baltimore has ever held. We went down to visit the ships and see the Blue Angels two years ago on a Friday afternoon. It worked out well, so Paul and I decided we would both take a half day of work on Friday and go down again this year when it would hopefully be a little less insane than it was bound to be on the weekend.

We didn’t go on as many of the ships this year because Paul didn’t want to wait in line. Based on the amount of time we had I don’t think we would have really had time to go on any additional ones anyway. Paul had looked at the list of ships ahead of time and decided he wanted to check out the NOAA vessel the Okeanos Explorer. When we got there we discovered they were doing official guided tours and so you had to sign up for a time. Since we were down there early enough we actually got signed up for one, but not until 2 hours later. We walked around and looked at the rest of the ships docked in the Inner Harbor and grabbed lunch.

Then we walked over to Federal Hill and got up there just in time for the Blue Angels to start their practice runs for the shows they were doing over Ft. McHenry Saturday and Sunday. Even just during practice they are incredibly impressive. I’m sure the actual show is even more so. One of the local TV news people got a ride in one of the jets earlier in the week and apparently passed out. I would probably vomit and then pass out. Some of those dives are crazy! They are crazy fast too. I kept trying to get a picture of the planes flying by the flag in the center of Federal Hill because I thought it would be a really cool shot. I have about half a dozen pictures of the flag with the Blue Angels just outside of the frame instead. I did get one picture that I really like though with the Blue Angels in formation flying right above the Pride of Baltimore II as it’s sailing out of the harbor, so I’ll have to settle for that one I guess.

After the Blue Angels we walked back over to the Okeanos for our tour. They told us about the work they do on the ship mapping the ocean floor and how their remote operated vehicle (ROV) works. It was a much more in depth look at the ship than you normally get when you get to walk around the main decks. After that tour we walked over to Fells Point and took a walk around the H.M.S. Argyll, a Scottish warship, that was docked at the Broadway Pier. I was highly amused that their uniforms involved shorts and knee socks because that just seems so Scottish to me.

We headed home after that and got stuck in some crazy traffic. Obama stopped at Ft. McHenry on his way to a fundraiser in Baltimore County and it happened to be right at Friday rush hour, so it pretty much FUBARed traffic around the entire metro area for several hours. A drive that usually takes us 10-15 minutes took us 45. I did not make it home in time to take the shower I had planned on before going out to dinner for a friend’s birthday. Hopefully I wasn’t too stinky.

Saturday sadly was rainy for most of the day, which is too bad given that it probably would have been the biggest day for the event if the weather had been nice. Luckily the weather did eventually clear up enough that the Blue Angels were able to fly about an hour and half after their scheduled start time, so it wasn’t a total wash for people who braved the rain. Happily for us the rain was long gone by plans for the evening. As part of the celebration Baltimore hosted the Star Spangled Spectacular concert, which was televised nationally on PBS’s Great Performances. If you missed it live last night, sometimes they put them up online, so you may be able to watch it later. The concert was hosted by John Lithgow and Jordan Sparks and featured a number of performers from all genres of music including Train, Melissa Etheridge, Kristin Chenoweth, Little Big Town, Denyce Graves-Montgomery, Kenny Rogers, Pentatonix, Smokey Robinson, and the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra. It ended in the largest fireworks display that Baltimore has ever put on and certainly the largest that I’ve ever seen. There were actually so many fireworks I was a bit overwhelmed. We were right in the middle of the six barges where we were located so I couldn’t decide which direction I should be looking. I think I might like my fireworks displays a little more subdued.

We had lawn seats of the concert, which actually worked out really nice for us. Because of the need to almost immediately switch back and forth between acts they had a second stage set up on the lawn. We had a great view of both stages from where we were, while I’m guessing people inside the pavilion had a poor view of the lawn stage if they could actually see it at all aside from what they were projecting on the screens on the main stage. Sometimes it pays to have the cheap (which in this case were not actually that cheap) seats. Each act sang 2 songs, so it gave you just a little taste of everything. Some people it made me really want to see more of live like Melissa Etheridge and others like Train reminded me why I don’t care about seeing them again. I realized last night that this incidentally was the third time I’ve unintentionally seen Train in concert because they happened to be playing with someone else I wanted to see. The first time was in a tiny little club where I went to college where they were the opening band, and no one had even heard of them yet. It was right before they hit it big with “Meet Virginia”. Anyway, I digress. It was a fun concert, and I’m glad we went.

It was a wonderful weekend overall. It was nice to see Baltimore on the national stage for something good for a change especially with all the recent bad publicity with Ray Rice and the Ravens.

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