Charleston's Navy history has always been geared toward the sea. But this week the focal point will be geared toward the sky.
A performance by the aerial precision team the Blue Angels over the waters of Charleston Harbor highlights Navy Week 2010 that starts today with selected events around the area.
The former Charleston Naval Base and shipyard complex, which employed thousands from World War II through Vietnam and the modern era, shut down in the mid-1990s. But the Navy's presence never left.
More than 13,000 people come through the Charleston Naval Weapons Station gates in Goose Creek and Hanahan almost daily to work at a variety of Navy-related jobs here. Some of the major local commands still in Charleston include the Navy Nuclear Power Training Command, the Naval Space and Air Warfare Systems Center and the Naval Consolidated Brig.
"They're still the largest single employer in the area," said Mary Graham, a senior vice president on public policy at the Charleston Metro Chamber of Commerce. The Medical University of South Carolina is second. Plus, there are thousands of Navy retirees.
No one is sure what the economic impact of the week will be, but Graham said there is still a payoff. "Navy Week will help to highlight what some of the military that's here in Charleston does," she said.
While there will be various demonstrations and visits by important military leaders, the high-flying spectacle of the Blue Angels air show promises to dominate the waterfront for four days in a row.
Though the group's "live" performances are slated for 2 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday, the six F/A-18 pilots of the Blue Angels will hold practice runs over the harbor around the Arthur Ravenel Bridge on Thursday and Friday, to familiarize themselves with local landmarks.
Each of the featured weekend performances will last one hour, with the planes soaring as high as 15,000 feet and as low as 50 feet over the water surface.
Charleston Harbor became the Angels' venue this year when the bi-annual Charleston Air Force Base air expo was cancelled because of the military's air route build-up tied to the war in Afghanistan. But in a lot of ways, the harbor performance should be more spectator-friendly than the air base. Charleston and Mount Pleasant are promoting sites on James Island, The Battery, Waterfront Park and at Patriots Point as ideal viewing areas.
"If you can see the (Ravenel) Bridge, you can see the show," said Scott Bassett, spokesman for the Naval Weapons Station, which is helping organize the event.
As a safety precaution, a roughly two-mile-by-3,000-foot box, running from the harbor side of the Arthur Ravenel Bridge to Shutes Folly Island off the Battery, will be off limits to anchoring boats during both of the shows and practice runs. Pleasure boaters are being directed to three anchorage sites around the security box.
Vehicular traffic on the Ravenel Bridge won't be halted during the show, but the pedestrian and bike path on the bridge will be closed during the shows Saturday and Sunday. There also will be closures of the paths during afternoon practices Thursday and Friday.
Charleston was named one of 20 cities to host a Navy Week celebration in 2010 as part of the Navy's education program on its mission and capabilities. Various events are being played out around the Lowcountry, including appearances by bands, underwater demolition teams and flight simulators.
But the Blue Angels show should be the dominant event, if only to see your tax dollars at work.
"There's really not going to be a bad view in the house," Lt. Amy Tomlinson, events coordinator for the flight team, said.
Charleston Navy Week 2010
Some of the public events include:
9 a.m.-1 p.m.: Navy Rock Band Southeast 'Pride' performs at Summerville High School, 1101 Boonehill Road.
9-11 a.m.: Navy Rock Band Southeast 'Pride' performs at West Ashley High School, 4060 W. Wildcat Blvd.
6 p.m.: Navy Day with the Charleston RiverDogs at Joseph P. Riley Jr. Park Charleston
9-11 a.m.: Navy Rock Band Southeast 'Pride' performs at Colleton County High School, 1379 Bulldog Ave., Walterboro
All-Day Navy Day at Patriots Point, 40 Patriots Point Road, Mount Pleasant
Navy flight simulator, the Navy SEAL Tour and a performance by the Navy Rock Band Southeast 'Pride' at the aircraft carrier Yorktown
9-11 a.m.: Navy Rock Band performs at North Charleston High School, 1087 East Montague Ave.
9:30-10:30 a.m.: Burns Elementary School Mentor Program. Sailors from the Naval Health Clinic Charleston tutor and speak with students about life skills, leadership, and Navy experiences, 3750 Dorchester Road, North Charleston.
2-6 p.m.: After-school with the Charleston YMCA. Sailors tutor and stress physical fitness during after school program, 61 Cannon St., Charleston
11 a.m.-1:30 p.m.:
Navy Rock Band Southeast 'Pride' performs at Stratford High School, 951 Crowfield Blvd.
3:30-7 p.m.: Sailors tutor and speak with the youth of the Boys and Girls Club of Charleston, 22 Mary St., Charleston.
3-4 p.m.: Navy divers at South Carolina Aquarium, 100 Aquarium Wharf, Charleston.
Navy Explosive Ordnance Disposal divers participate in an interactive dive show.
11 a.m.,1:30 p.m.: Navy EOD divers at S.C. Aquarium 2-3 p.m.: Blue Angels performance over Charleston Harbor
2-3 p.m.: Blue Angels performance over Charleston Harbor