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Fleet Week, once a top Brooklyn tourist draw, to go virtual again due to pandemic

Week traditionally opened with `Parade of Ships’ under Verrazzano

February 8, 2021 Raanan Geberer

For the second year in a row, Fleet Week New York, scheduled from May 26-31, will “go virtual” due to the coronavirus, the U.S. Navy announced on Monday.

When Fleet Week was live, however, it hosted events throughout the Brooklyn waterfront and other locations on the west side of the borough, and was a great draw for local residents who came from miles around.

In 2019, for example, Fleet Week contained a tour of the guided missile cruiser USS Hue City from the Brooklyn Cruise Terminal in Red Hook; a “Fleet Week Follies” festival of food, music and family fun in Williamsburg; and a concert by the U.S. Marine Drum and Bugle Corps in Prospect Park. 

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The annual Kings County Memorial Day Parade was also listed as a Fleet Week activity, even though it is produced independently of the Navy.

And just like every year, a “Parade of Ships” sailed under the Verrazzano Bridge, heading for New York Harbor, as armed forces personnel at Fort Hamilton gave an 11-gun salute. One of the ships was the USS New York, made partially of steel salvaged from the World Trade Center disaster.

This U.S. Navy diver thrilled people of all ages by interacting with sea creatures at the New York Aquarium during Fleet Week 2017. Photo courtesy of U.S. Navy

All in all, in 2019, about 103,000 people took tours of ships moored throughout the city or saw aircraft displays at various parks and schools.

In 2017, some U.S  Navy Divers assigned to the Mobile Diving and Salvage Unit came to the New York Aquarium in Coney Island to swim with marine life, entertain kids and showcase their abilities.

Navy Diver 1st Class Sean Dargie and Navy Diver 1st Class Dave Cannon did somersaults, took photos, danced underwater and high-fived children through glass.

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The event not only raised awareness for U.S. Navy divers, but it also attracted dozens of school groups to support the New York Aquarium, an iconic and quintessential Brooklyn institution.

Fort Hamilton itself, threw open its gates to welcome visitors for the start of Fleet Week and invited everyone to head up to the bluff to catch the best view of the Parade of Ships. “I would like to welcome everyone as we pay salute to the ships and to the Navy fleet,” Col. Peter Sicoli, the fort’s commander, told the audience. “It’s going to be a great day.”

In 2020, Virtual Fleet Week New York was viewed by more than 170,000 people, allowing the U.S. Navy, Coast Guard and Marine Corps to show off their capabilities to at least 66,000 more people than they were able to through in-person ship tours and aircraft demonstrations the previous year.

“The Navy is committed to doing everything it can to defeat the coronavirus. Keeping our Sailors, Marines and Coast Guardsmen at home is the best way to ensure we protect the health and safety of New York and our force so we can return to normal as soon as possible,” said Rear Adm. Charles W. Rock, Commander, Navy Region Mid-Atlantic. 

Virtual Fleet Week New York content posted across all platforms, including photos, graphics, videos, Instagram stories and text, reached more than 2 million people in 2020 and resulted in more than 4.4 million impressions.

“We’re excited to once again connect with people online in New York and around the world,” Rock said. 

This year’s schedule of events is still under development, but will occur on Fleet Week New York’s Facebook, Instagram and Twitter accounts.  


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