Navy Week to make first visit to ToledoWritten by Sarah Ottney | Managing Editor | firstname.lastname@example.org
Five ships and more than 500 service men and women will visit Toledo as the city hosts Navy Week from Aug. 20-27.
The week will feature ship tours, musical performances by military bands and opportunities to interact with service members.
Navy leaders will engage with local community leaders and visiting military members, including members of the U.S. Navy, U.S. Marine Corps, U.S. Coast Guard and Royal Canadian Navy, will partner with local organizations on outreach and service projects.
This year is the first time Toledo has been chosen to host Navy Week, said Jen Sorgenfrei, public information officer for the City of Toledo.
“At this point, it’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” Sorgenfrei said. “It’s something we hope will be a return engagement, but it’s certainly a big opportunity for us this year. I think it’s going to look really exciting to see those ships come down the river.”
The Navy Week program started in 2005 as an annual outreach effort into areas of the country without a significant Navy presence. This year’s 15-city tour started in Phoenix in March and will finish in Houston in October. Other cities hosting Navy Weeks are New Orleans; Nashville, Tenn.; Spokane, Wash.; Baltimore; Boston; Sacramento, Calif.; Sioux Falls, S.D.; Milwaukee; Chicago; Cleveland; Detroit; and Buffalo, N.Y.
The ceremonial procession of ships into Toledo Harbor is set for 3 p.m. Aug. 23.
The two biggest ships, the USS De Wert and the Royal Canadian Navy’s HMCS Ville de Québec, will dock at Maritime Plaza while the USS Hurricane, the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Mobile Bay and the historic U.S. Brig Niagara, a replica of the War of 1812 flagship, will dock at International Park near the SS Col. James M. Schoonmaker.
Niagara will lead the ships down the Maumee River and will exchange cannon fire with the cannon at Fort Meigs in Perrysburg. Niagara’s appearance was arranged through local private fundraising efforts, Sorgenfrei said.
Sorgenfrei recommended International Park as the best place to watch the ships come in.
“We want people to come out, tour the ships and be there to welcome them into Downtown,” Sorgenfrei said. “I think it’s going to be pretty cool.”
Free guided tours will be available noon to 7 p.m. Aug. 24-27.
There haven’t been Navy ships on the Great Lakes since 1999, said Lt. Cmdr. Ron Flesvig, who is helping coordinate Toledo’s events.
“To get all those ships together and be able to tour them and talk to the men and women who serve on them, I think that’s the most special part of this commemoration event,” Flesvig said.
Toledo is one of six Navy Week stops on the Great Lakes that will also include activities commemorating the 200th anniversary of the War of 1812.
“What makes this year special is it is the beginning of our commemoration of the bicentennial of the War of 1812,” Flesvig said. “1812 really was a watershed moment in American Naval history. The Battle of Lake Erie and ‘Don’t give up the ship’ — all those things came from the War of 1812. For the Navy, it’s very special. At that time, we became a maritime nation and we continue to do that today. Fast-forward 200 years and it’s still the same mission we had in 1812. We’re still maintaining coastlines, keeping steel lines open and keeping trade flowing between nations.”
Although the ships won’t arrive until Aug. 23, community events start Aug. 20. Sailors representing various Navy occupations will give presentations throughout the week at Imagination Station, said Anna Kolin, communications and public relations manager for Imagination Station.
“Everything from pilots to chefs to writers to photographers to medical personnel, we’ll have different sailors here talking to our visitors about the things they do and the wide range of occupations they can do in the Navy,” Kolin said. “We’ll also have activities for kids that exemplify the different occupations.”
Imagination Station visitors will also be able to try a flight simulator and watch the Navy’s silent drill team perform, Kolin said. Toledo police and firefighters will also be on hand with equipment for visitors to try on.
Sailors will also participate in interactive activities with families and children at the Toledo Museum of Art’s Family Center at 10 a.m. Aug. 21.
Among the free musical performances will be lunchtime concerts from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Aug. 22 at Levis Square in Downtown Toledo and at the Toledo Museum of Art, a 7 p.m. Aug. 23 performance at Commodore Square in Perrysburg and an 1812 Bicentennial Concert at 7 p.m. Aug. 24 at the University of Toledo Doermann Theatre.
A Coast Guard search and rescue helicopter demonstration is planned for Promenade Park at 1 p.m. Aug. 24.
The Mud Hens’ Veterans Appreciation Night on Aug. 25 will feature a ceremonial first pitch thrown by a sailor and a band performance.
Among the organizations partnering with the Navy for service projects are Cherry Street Mission, Ability Center of Greater Toledo, Maumee Valley Habitat for Humanity, St. Paul Community Center, Ronald McDonald House Charities, Toledo Children’s Hospital and Heroes in Action.
Sorgenfrei said she hopes area residents enjoy the week’s activities.
“First and foremost, we want to welcome them to Toledo and show our appreciation for what they do to help protect our country and to make them feel welcome in our community,” Sorgenfrei said. “It’s also an opportunity for people in Toledo to see Navy ships of this caliber.”
For more information and a full schedule of events, visit www.navyweek.org. For more information on the Navy’s commemoration of the bicentennial of the War of 1812, visit www.ourflagwasstillthere.org.