TAMPA — Tampa is an Air Force town whose greatest modern claim to nautical fame is an annual celebration of a fake pirate.
But for one week next May, all that changes.
The Navy on Friday announced that the home of Gasparilla and MacDill Air Force Base has been chosen to host a local Navy Week, where some 70 sailors will converge on the city May 7-13.
Since 2005, the Navy Week program has served as the service’s primary outreach effort into areas of the country that don’t have a significant Navy presence, according to a Navy news release. There have been 210 Navy Weeks held in 74 different U.S. markets.
“Navy Weeks are designed to help Americans understand why having a strong Navy is critical to the American way of life,” said Cmdr. Linda Rojas, director of the Navy Office of Community Outreach, which plans and executes the Navy Week program. “Because the Navy is concentrated primarily on both coasts, we’re challenged to communicate our mission away from fleet concentration areas. That’s where the Navy Week program comes in.”
Highlights of the event include the Leap Frogs U.S. Navy Parachute Team; sailors assigned to the state’s namesake submarine, USS Florida; Navy divers and Navy Explosive Ordnance Disposal teams; and Navy Band performances.
Navy Week will also represent some interservice synergy with another major event already scheduled in Tampa.
Tampa Bay Airfest, with aerial and static displays of military aircraft, takes place May 12 and 13. The Navy Blue Angels aerial aerobatic team is headlining.
Tampa was chosen for Navy Week because of its demographics, knowledge of the Navy, support for the Navy and the performance of the Blue Angels, said Lt. Cmdr. Brett Dawson.
Dawson added that no ships are yet scheduled to visit, but one might be arranged from the Navy Oceanographic and Meteorology Command.
“Tampa welcomes Navy Week with open arms,” Mayor Bob Buckhorn said in an email to the Tampa Bay Times. “As a world class military city that’s home to MacDill … I couldn’t think of a better place to celebrate the tradition of Navy Week.”