It's never too early to get ready for Fleet Week, one of the highlights of San Francisco's fall outdoor-event lineup. Come October, thousands will flock to vantage points along the Embarcadero, the Marina Green and elsewhere to take in the parade of ships and the aerial acrobatics of the Blue Angels.
Started in 1981 by then-Mayor Dianne Feinstein to honor sea-based members of the military, Fleet Week has become the country's largest celebration of the United States armed forces, especially the Navy and Coast Guard. Now seen as a model for other events around the country, it brings in an estimated $10 million in revenue to the city annually. Visitors and Bay Area locals descend on the city to explore and learn about carriers, cruisers, destroyers and other examples of American military hardware as well as attend concerts, art shows and military-themed educational exhibits.
The festivities scheduled for Oct. 2-10 coincide with a robust lineup of community events, including the start of Italian Heritage Month, and will draw on high school bands, volunteers and civilian-military partnerships to pay respect to military service members. As usual, hundreds of members of the armed services will be on hand and in uniform to enjoy the city's hospitality during their shore leave (unless, of course, they're in the cockpit).
The highlight of Fleet Week, as always, will be the weekend air show and featuring the famed Blue Angels, the Navy fighter jets residents will once again look skyward to watch as they dip and loop their way in unison across the skies of the San Francisco Bay, the deafening noise of their engines thrilling spectators and terrifying pets.
This year, the air show will feature demonstration flights by a full complement of U.S. Navy, Coast Guard and Air Force aircraft. Usually by October, Karl the Fog has dissipated enough to provide a backdrop of clear blue skies for the aeronautical display. But not always.
Either way, there will also be a lineup of cruisers, cutters and amphibious vehicles on land. They'll be on display at three piers along the Port of San Francisco waterfront. Tours are free but will be offered on a first-come, first-served basis.
But Fleet Week isn't just for fun. Its larger mission is to provide support to civilians and municipalities if a disaster strikes.
Although limited information was available Sunday on exact lineups of vessels and planes due to show, tickets ranging from $125 for premium box seats to $395 "Flight Deck Club" seating have been on sale since an initial spring announcement.
For more information, e-mail email@example.com or write to San Francisco Fleet Week Association, P.O. Box 460880, San Francisco, CA 94110.
George Kelly can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org