Fleet Week, one of San Francisco’s most popular celebrations, returns this week to provide dazzle on the water and in the skies.
From the Blue Angels buzzing overhead to the military ships at Piers
30-32 and fireworks on Saturday night, there’s something for everyone.
You’ll be able to see the Blue Angels from many places in the city, but Mary
Hickey, spokesperson for Fleet Week, said “really anywhere along the
waterfront” is the best vantage point. “If you can see the water, you’re
in good shape.”
While it was common for Navy ships to dock in SF for public events as
early as 1908, the modern incarnation of Fleet Week owes its existence
to former Mayor Dianne Feinstein, the daughter of a naval reserve
officer. She relaunched the event in 1981, and it’s now an integral part
of the city’s calendar, drawing big crowds along the Embarcadero and Fisherman’s Wharf.
“Being the second-biggest weekend
of the year, of course it’s a huge, huge deal for our retailers and our
restaurants,” said Troy Campbell, executive director of the Fisherman’s Wharf Community Benefit District. (Valentine’s Day was the Wharf’s most-visited weekend last year, according to a new pedestrian-counting system.) “It’s a great amphitheater for watching the Blue Angels,” he added.
If you’d rather sit down for the show, the nonprofit San Francisco Fleet Week Association, which hosts the event, sells tickets
for guaranteed seats on Marina Green. You can get premium box seats or
VIP “Flight Deck Club” seats—which include a full buffet, wine and
beer—to help raise money to cover costs.
Fleet Week officially runs from October 5th-12th, but public events
don’t kick off until Thursday, when ship tours are offered from
10am-2pm. The Blue Angels begin to practice that day, too, from
noon-4pm. Friday sees the Parade of Ships (11-12:30pm) and the Air Show
from 12:30–3pm, starting with the U.S. Navy Leap Frogs Parachute Team
and ending with the Blue Angels from 3–4pm.
USS Somerset. (Photo: Geri Koeppel/Hoodline)
One of the ships in attendance this year is the USS Somerset, which sailed through the Bay on Sunday morning. The ship, an amphibious transport dock, “was named after the passengers of United Airlines Flight 93 during the September 11th attacks of
2001, whose actions prevented the plane, hijacked by terrorists, from
reaching their intended target, forcing the airplane to crash in Stonycreek Township in Somerset County, Pennsylvania,” according to Wikipedia.
Fat Albert, a C-130, will start off the Blue Angels show as always,
but this year, there’s a twist: it’ll be flown by the first female Blue
Angels pilot, Katie Higgins. If you’d like to meet Higgins and the other
Blue Angels pilots, they’ll hold an autograph signing on Saturday at
Pier 39, from 6:10-6:50pm. (Here’s a full list of Pier 39’s Fleet Week events.)
Other major events include a Duboce Park “Bark at the Park” party
(10am–1pm Saturday), featuring public-safety canine demos from a variety
of agencies and departments, and an Off the Grid Fleet Fest at Pier 80 on Saturday and Sunday, with nine food trucks, beer and wine, and live music.
The Marina Green Festival and Humanitarian Village will feature interactive demonstrations of “all kinds of stuff the military has in the event of an emergency,” Hickey said. That’s in keeping with Fleet Week’s goals to “develop and share best practices in humanitarian assistance and emergency disaster response,” according to its website.
The celebration coincides with Sunday’s Italian Heritage Parade,
which features military members, marching bands, politicians, city
agencies, community groups, businesses and more throughout Fisherman’s
Wharf and North Beach. The 96th annual North Beach Bazaar,
to benefit students at Saints Peter and Paul Salesian School (660
Filbert St.), is also this weekend; we’ll give a full preview on those
happenings later this week.