The Star-Spangled Spectacular kicks off today. Our post, originally published last week, gives a refresher on the details of the week! – The Eds.
International tall ships in the harbor, concerts, Baltimore’s largest display of fireworks, an air show by the U.S. Navy Blue Angels — what isn’t happening for the Star-Spangled Spectacular, Baltimore’s week-long celebration of the 200th anniversary of the national anthem? Only the running of the bulls, like they do in Pamplona, Spain for the Festival of San Fermin. Everything but the bulls for this historic event, which starts next week, and has little something for every one. O say can you see? Yes, you totally can, see that Francis Scott Key rocks because anyone who uses the word “spangled” and “ramparts” is someone I want to know better.
Call yourself a Baltimorean? Then you already know that during the War of 1812, after witnessing the bombardment of Fort McHenry by the British Navy in the Battle of Baltimore, September 13-14, 1814, Scott Key wrote a li’l poem called Defence of Fort M’Henry. The lyrics were set (with no irony whatsoever) to a popular British men’s social club song. It was later renamed the Star Spangled Banner, and became a popular patriotic song and, in 1931, President Herbert Hoover made it our national anthem. Here, read this great Smithsonian article about it.
The flag that inspired Scott Key survives. It is at the Smithsonian. Washington might have the flag. But Baltimore has the party. And we have a flag museum.
The Star-Spangled Spectacular entertainment will be in full swing starting Wednesday, September 10th and runs through Tuesday, September 16th for a near week of jubilation. The schedule of events is packed. There is fun for everyone, from youngsters to great-aunt Sally, from living history demonstrations and historic airplanes at Martin State Airport, to hands-on activities for kids, to music by the United States Marine Band and a multi-artist concert on Saturday, September 13 hosted by John Lithgow at the Pier Six Pavilion, and broadcast live on PBS’s Great Performances. Click here for tickets. Phew. I almost ran out of breath writing all that. There are also festival villages at the Inner Harbor, Fort McHenry and Martin State Airport offering, among many other goings-on, cooking demonstrations of Chesapeake delicacies like crab cakes, fried chicken and Smith Island cake. Ladies and gentlemen, start your forks. This promises to be so delicious you’ll forget all about the Grand Prix.
The National Park Service at Fort McHenry will be offering ranger-led programs, including — eat your heart out, Colonial Williamsburg — a real time, reenactment on Sunday, September 14 at 9:00 a.m. the exact moment 200 years ago when the historic 15 stars and 15 stripes American flag was raised over Fort McHenry that so inspired Francis Scott Key. You can live history. Minus — thank goodness — the bombs soaring in air, and the rockets red glare, and all that. (Bonus: flags throughout our nation’s history. Thank you, Miss Betsy Ross for improving hugely upon the Sons of Liberty’s plain red-n-white stripes design.)
So run, skip, hula hoop, bus, water taxi, or hitchhike like Baltimore son John Waters (second thought: don’t hitchhike like John Waters) to Baltimore and get your flag on. Maryland isn’t just the land of pleasant living; you can tell your kids, it’s the state where it all began: the flag, the National Anthem, and the tradition worth fighting for: steaming crabs in beer.
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