Wait, the War of 1812 bicentennial? Didn’t we celebrate that two years ago? Well, yes. But the War spanned two years, and the battles around the Bay were largely fought in 1813 and 1814. This September’s giant Star-Spangled Spectacular in Baltimore marks the end of the war here on the Chesapeake (and of the two-year long around-the-Bay series of events, historical reenactments, lectures and commemorations of the war). Even more important, this month marks the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Baltimore, which included both the land raid on Baltimore at North Point, and the bombardment of Fort McHenry. This latter attack, of course inspired Francis Scott Key’s poem “Defense of Fort McHenry,” which as we all know, was ultimately set to music, renamed “The Star-Spangled Banner” and became our national anthem.

This failed attack on Baltimore effectively put an end to the British Navy’s Chesapeake campaign, so it’s no wonder that Baltimore is pulling out all the stops to celebrate.

Star-Spangled Spectacular

Baltimore’s Star-Spangled Spectacular is a weeklong party to commemorate the Battle of Baltimore and to pay homage to the National Anthem and to the flag that inspired Francis Scott Key to pen the poem. The 30- by 42-foot flag, now on display at Washington’s Smithsonian Institution, flew over Fort McHenry during the 25-hour bombardment of the fort. When Key saw the giant flag flying over the fort at dawn, he was moved to write his famous poem.

During the Spectacular celebration, which takes place from September 10 to 16, Baltimore will play host to more than 30 international Tall ships and Navy vessels; have three separate “Festival Villages” with hands-on events and entertainment for the whole family; sponsor a history “passport” program in collaboration with 30 museums and historic sites; and feature a grand finale weekend with two Blue Angels flight demonstrations; a star-studded outdoor concert and a knock-your-socks-off fireworks show. Herewith, is an overview of the city-wide celebration. Full schedules, tall ship lists and locations are available at www.starspangled200.com.

Tall Ships

More than 35 tall ships and Navy vessels from around the world will be arriving in Baltimore throughout the day on September 10. That evening from 6 to 7 p.m. at the Inner Harbor Amphitheater there will be a ceremony to welcome the captains of the visiting ships and officially kick-off the Star-Spangled Spectacular week. From September 11 through September 15, the ships will be open for tours daily from noon to 5 p.m. Tall ships will be located throughout the Inner Harbor and Fell’s Point, and naval vessels will be at North Locust Point. A map of the ships’ locations is expected to be available on starspangled200.com by September. Free shuttles will be running from the Inner Harbor to North Locust Point to take visitors to see the naval ships. Be prepared for a security screening before touring the Navy ships.

Fort McHenry

Fort McHenry (open 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily, with a few exceptions for extended hours; see starspangled200.com for exact times) will be hosting a number of programs in addition to regular tours and exhibits at the park. On September 9, there will be a “Living Flag” event, where local students will dress in red, white and blue and stand together to form a giant flag. On September 11, there will be a 9/11 commemoration and flag ceremony at 11 a.m. to honor first responders and victims of 9/11 and those who fell in the 1814 Battle of Baltimore.

For the weekend’s big to-do, Fort McHenry will have an evening concert with music by the U.S. Marine Corps band and other performers playing patriotic music. The full-size replica flag will be raised, and at dusk there will be a spectacular fireworks display.

On Sunday, September 14, the fort will celebrate by again raising the full-size replica of the 15 stars and 15 stripes Star-Spangled Banner at 9 a.m.—200 years to the day and nearly to the hour after the long bombardment prompting Key’s poem. There will be artillery salutes, patriotic music and living history military units and more throughout the day.

There will also be a Star-Spangled Festival Village set up on the Fort McHenry grounds, open Friday through Sunday. The village will have hands-on activities for children, giveaways, displays, music and food stands.

Getting to the Fort will be a bit trickier than usual, as there will be no parking available at the Fort or in the surrounding Locust Point neighborhood. Instead there will be free shuttle transportation continuously running from the Inner Harbor shuttle stop, at Light and West Conway streets.

Blue Angels

The Blue Angels will perform over Baltimore’s Inner Harbor on both Saturday and Sunday, September 13 and 14 from 2 to 4 p.m. You can see the show from most anywhere in the Inner Harbor, Fell’s Point, Canton, Federal Hill and Fort McHenry. Boating traffic will be restricted during the shows. For river closings, visit starspangled200.com. As an added bonus for aviation fans, the Blue Angels pilots will be available to sign autographs after the show at the Festival Village at Martin State Airport.

Festival Villages

Three Star-Spangled Spectacular Villages—at the Inner Harbor, Martin State Airport and Fort McHenry—will provide festival-goers a place to gather for family-friendly activities, entertainment, and food, drink and restrooms. Each will also have guest services like first aid tents, a lost and found, and bicycle storage (BYO locks).

The Inner Harbor Village will be open Friday 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., with a “Meet the Fleet” happy hour from 6 to 8 p.m.; Saturday 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. and Sunday 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. It will feature a Family Fun Zone on Rash Field, between the Maryland Science Center and the Rusty Scupper restaurant, a 90-foot red, white and blue ferris wheel, live music, hands-on activities, cooking demonstrations and a variety of food options.

The Martin State Airport village will be open Saturday and Sunday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. In addition to food, displays, music and children’s activities, you will be able see military aircraft up close, including FA-18s, an A-10 Thunderbolt and a C-130 turboprop. There will also be historic planes on display, and of course, you can visit the Glenn L. Martin Maryland Aviation Museum at the airport.

While you won’t be able to watch the Blue Angels flying over the Patapsco, they will be taking off and landing from Martin State, and the pilots will be available after the flight demonstration for autographs.

March of the Defenders

On September 11, 500 uniformed members of Maryland’s National Guard will march from Patterson Park to Battle Acre Park, traveling along the Star-Spangled Banner National Historic Trail. The six-mile route is the same one that members of the Maryland Militia marched along 200 years ago to defend Baltimore from British invaders. Governor O’Malley will kick off the event in Patterson Park with a ceremony at 10 a.m.

War of 1812 Bicentennial Passport

Keep track of the historic sites you visit as you make your way around Baltimore with this keepsake passport created by the Baltimore National Heritage Area. By visiting 10 of the 30 participating sites for passport stamps you will earn a commemorative bicentennial coin. Passports are available at the Lord Baltimore Hotel, Days Inn Baltimore (Inner Harbor), Renaissance Baltimore Harborplace Hotel and the Baltimore Marriott Waterfront Hotel. Four sites are required visits: the Baltimore Visitor Center, Fort McHenry, Maryland Historical Society and the Star-Spangled Banner Flag House. Many visiting ships will also be passport sites. For a list of all 30 sites, visit explorebaltimore.org/passport-program.

Concert & Fireworks

Saturday the 13th, though technically in the middle of the week’s events, will undoubtedly be the big finale, with both the Star-Spangled Spectacular: Bicentennial of our National Anthem concert at Pier Six Pavilion and the huge fireworks show on the river.

The two-hour concert will be hosted by actor John Lithgow, and will feature performances by pop star Kristin Chenowith, country group Little Big Town, the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra and others. Doors open at 5 p.m. Tickets can be purchased at 410-244-1131 or at piersixpavilion.com. The fireworks spectacular will start at 9:30 p.m. and will be viewable from most of the Inner Harbor, Fort McHenry and the Fell’s Point/Canton area.

[September 2014 issue]