Fleet Week is still happening in San Francisco next week, but it will be a much quieter affair and there will be no air show or ship parade—both of which were canceled because of federal budget cuts.
Without the popular Blue Angels squadron and no Navy Parade of Ships, Fleet Week officials are instead focusing on disaster preparedness drills involving the military and local first responders.
To make up for the lack of activity on the waterfront, Pier 39 is hosting fireworks shows at 8:30 p.m. every Saturday this month.
Pier 39 spokeswoman Sue Muzzin said organizers were initially planning to have the fireworks on a single Saturday as part of the pier’s 35th anniversary celebration, but decided to expand them to every Saturday after hearing about Fleet Week being scaled back.
Muzzin said the fireworks shows are “our way of thanking the people of the Bay Area for their support.”
Nevertheless, the reduced Fleet Week activity has San Francisco’s tourism industry worried that the crowds won’t show up this year.
“There’s no question that we’re concerned about it,” said Joe D’Alessandro, president of the San Francisco Convention and Visitors Bureau. “Fleet Week brought a lot of people down into the waterfront, into restaurants and shops.”
D’Alessandro said the situation could be exacerbated by the ongoing federal government shutdown, which has caused the closure of popular tourist attractions like Alcatraz Island.
“We really hope that the impasse in D.C. gets resolved quickly,” he said. “It was the sequester that had the air show and Fleet Week events canceled, and now it’s their inability to agree on the budget that’s impacting” other attractions.
The Fleet Week disaster preparedness drills start Monday with a response to a simulated aftermath of a catastrophic earthquake.
A U.S. Marine Corps platoon will arrive via MV-22 Osprey aircraft and set up at San Francisco General Hospital, with the California National Guard creating decontamination units at other hospitals in the city.
There will be some public exhibits related to the drills, including one featuring dogs trained in search and rescue, bomb detection and other specialized fields.
There will also be a veteran’s art exhibit from Oct. 8-13 in the library of the Marines’ Memorial Club at 609 Sutter St.
Dan McMenamin, Bay City News