Thou­sands came to Bal­ti­more to see ships and air­craft, en­joy fes­ti­vals

Baltimore Sun - - FRONT PAGE - By Lor­raine Mirabella lor­raine.mirabella@balt­sun.com

Of­fi­cials are still tal­ly­ing fi­nal vis­i­tor counts but say the first Mary­land Fleet week & Air Show was a suc­cess, draw­ing tourists from the re­gion and be­yond.

When the Blue An­gels soared over Bal­ti­more’s In­ner Har­bor last week­end, the crowd that had gath­ered in Is­abella’s Brick Oven in Lit­tle Italy dashed out to watch.

Even af­ter the Navy’s elite flight demon­stra­tion team flew into the dis­tance, crowds packed the South High Street restau­rant to such an ex­tent that it ran short on bread and dough by Sun­day evening.

“This was re­ally ter­rific, bet­ter than we ex­pected,” Is­abella’s owner, Daniel Ste­wart, said of busi­ness over the week­end, the fi­nal two days of the first Mary­land Fleet Week & Air Show. “As soon as we heard jets, every­one was out of the place. As soon as it was quiet, they flooded back in.”

Of­fi­cials were still tal­ly­ing fi­nal vis­i­tor counts Mon­day but said the week­long event drew tourists from the re­gion and be­yond. Or­ga­niz­ers had been an­tic­i­pat­ing about 500,000 peo­ple at the city’s wa­ter­front and else­where to tour ships, watch air shows and wan­der through fes­ti­vals.

The city heard rel­a­tively few com­plaints about traf­fic on a week­end when some down­town streets were closed Satur­day for the Bal­ti­more Run­ning Fes­ti­val, said An­thony McCarthy, a spokesman for Mayor Stephanie Rawl­ings-Blake. He said many vis­i­tors heeded ad­vice to take pub­lic transportation.

“Ev­ery­thing re­ally came to­gether,” McCarthy said. “It was some­thing for every­one.”

Of­fi­cials re­ported strong num­bers for ship tours, in­clud­ing 5,000 peo­ple for the Cana­dian navy’s coastal de­fense ves­sel Shaw­ini­gan at the In­ner Har­bor and more than 9,000 vis­i­tors for the U.S. Navy trans­port ship Car­son City at Pier 5. A to­tal of about 30,000 peo­ple vis­ited all the Navy ships that of­fered tours.

Fort McHenry nearly reached its ca­pac­ity of 11,000 vis­i­tors Sun­day, said Christo­pher Row­som, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of His­toric Ships in Bal­ti­more, a Fleet Week or­ga­nizer with the state Depart­ment of Com­merce and the Mary­land Of­fice of Tourism.

“At the In­ner Har­bor, I have never seen it so busy, and I’ve been around a long time,” Row­som said. “Par­tic­u­larly Satur­day af­ter­noon, it was jam­packed. It was more than we were ex­pect­ing.

“Peo­ple come specif­i­cally for this, and that’s bring­ing peo­ple into the city, putting peo­ple in ho­tels, and vis­it­ing restau­rants and other at­trac­tions be­sides the ships,” he said.

Vis­i­tors came to see more than 40 sail­boats and schooners in Can­ton early in the week. The Great Ch­e­sa­peake Bay Schooners’ Pa­rade of Sail took place Wed­nes­day at the In­ner Har­bor, fol­lowed Thurs­day by the Great Ch­e­sa­peake Bay Schooners Race. U.S. and Cana­dian navy ships ar­rived Wed­nes­day at the In­ner Har­bor, Lo­cust Point and Fells Point.

On Satur­day, peo­ple lined up more than an hour be­fore gates opened at Martin State Air­port, said Al Pol­lard, the air­port’s chief of op­er­a­tions. He said more than 15,000 peo­ple came to view more than 30 fighter jets and other air­craft that were on dis­play along with vin­tage air­craft from the Glenn L. Martin Mary­land Avi­a­tion Mu­seum. Vis­i­tors met pi­lots and flight crews and watched the Blue An­gels and other mil­i­tary air­craft de­part for shows.

Such events help ex­pose the pub­lic to avi­a­tion, Pol­lard said.

“We do it for the pub­lic good will and for the fu­ture avi­a­tors of the world, fu­ture pi­lots, me­chan­ics and air traf­fic con­trollers,” Pol­lard said.

On Mon­day, or­ga­niz­ers were look­ing ahead to mak­ing Fleet Week a bian­nual hap­pen­ing.

“The city needs that kind of thing,” Row­som said. “We need peo­ple to know they can come down to the city and feel com­fort­able here, and it’s events like this that def­i­nitely help with that.”

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