If you are like me, then some of the earliest memories of singing the national anthem were during high school football matches or at a baseball game as a kid.
Explore the 200-year history of how the anthem came to be during Baltimore’s free Star-Spangled Spectacular event on Sept. 10-16. “We anticipate the Star- Spangled Spectacular being the largest tourism event in the history of Baltimore,” says Tom Noonan, president and CEO of Visit Baltimore.
Tall ships, Navy gray hulls and the high-flying Blue Angels will come to Baltimore’s Inner Harbor to commemorate the birthplace and bicentennial of “The Star-Spangled Banner.” Many of the museums, historic sites and restaurants are also showcasing exhibits and deals during the Spectacular.
Here is a guide to some of the upcoming festivities.
History and entertainment are readily accessible indoors and, of course, on the popular harbor. Foodies will have lots of selections for their palates, and discounts, too.
The IMAX movie, “Star-Spangled Banner: Anthem of Liberty” is showing at the Maryland Science Center in the Harbor several times a day. The 25-minute HD-picture explores the origins of the War of 1812 and the British torching of Washington, the White House and the U.S. Capitol. The film follows the actions of Maj. George Armistead, our commander of Fort McHenry in defense of the City of Baltimore, and his nemesis, Rear Adm. George Cockburn, commanding the attacking British fleet. The film is informative and easy to understand for young children and teens. They will learn how Maj. Armistead commissioned the Star Spangled Banner, “a flag so large that the British would have no difficulty seeing it from a distance” and how Francis Scott Key came to pen the nation’s anthem.
The Star Spangled Banner National Anthem Tour by Sea is presented by Watermark tours. Guests board the Light Street Finger Piers next to the Maryland Science Center and take in a 60-minute narrated cruise. Learn the story of the War of 1812, Maryland’s pivotal role in securing America’s independence, while taking in the sights of the Baltimore Inner Harbor. You will be able to see the exact location where the British ships were encroaching on Fort McHenry, and view the canons on the perimeter of the fort that protected Baltimore residents. The tour ends in a flourish with the U.S. Naval Academy Glee Club recording of the Star-Spangled Banner.
The Wit & Wisdom restaurant at the Four Seasons Hotel invites Star-Spangled Spectacular guests to one of the best seats in the Harbor to view the Blue Angels airshow, a two-hour live national broadcast co-hosted by John Lithgow and Jordin Sparks with performances by, Kenny Rodgers, Melissa Etheridge, Kristin Chenoweth, the Baltimore Symphony, the off-Broadway show “Stomp,” and Smokey Robinson on Saturday, Sept. 13 from 6 to 10 pm. There will also be a fireworks show, expected to be the largest fireworks and lights display since 1814. Attendees will have unlimited food, including ribs and oysters, and salads and sides. (Guaranteed seating for the whole night, $125; general admission, $80)
The museum and historic sites are offering anthem-themed sights and sounds, as well.
The Reginald F. Lewis Museum of Maryland African American History & Culture presents the For Whom It Stands: The Flag and the American People exhibit, which includes documentary on Grace Wisher, the African American who contributed to the sewing of the Star Spangled Banner flag. Also on display are photographs of Americans from all generations and ethnicities holding the American flag. “I gave them the flag and they decided what to do with it because every generation has a different perspective of the American flag,” says artist Sheila Pree Bright of her sound and music installation at the museum.
Renowned beat-boxer Shodekeh will re-mix, re-interpret and re-imagine the national anthem on Sunday Sept. 14 from 5 to 8pm at the museum. He convenes a multiplicity of musicians in the performance: the Baltimore Boom Bap Society, specialists in improvised hip-hop; and Classical Revolution, a coalition of classically trained musicians who seek to change the culture around classical music.
At the Fort McHenry National Monument and Historic Shrine, the site where Francis Scott Key was inspired to write the anthem, there is a new visitors center with a miniature museum. Visitors can enter interactive booths to listen to different celebrities who have performed the national anthem over the decades, such as the late Jimi Hendrix and Whitney Houston. The visitor’s center also plays a 10-minute, Hollywood-quality film about the anthem, and afterward you can touch authentic British bombs that “burst in air” during the battle, as well as view imposing muskets used by American soldiers during the 19th century.
American sports fans should pay a visit to Babe Ruth’s boyhood home-turned-museum, which has linked its sports theme to the banner’s bicentennial with the exhibit ” ‘O’ Say Can You See: The Star-Spangled Banner in Sports.” “They didn’t celebrate sports 200 years ago, so I wondered how we could tie the festivities into the museum,” says Mike Gibbons, executive director of the Babe Ruth Birthplace Museum. The anthem was first sung at a baseball game in 1918 in Chicago, during Game One of the World Series between the Boston Red Sox and the Chicago Cubs. Fast forward to present-day Baltimore, a city that pays tribute to its Orioles team by singing the anthem with an emphasized “O!” Visitors can view a short film with a composite of the song pulled from dozens of renditions.
“The For Whom It Stands, TOO” exhibit is the companion exhibition to “For Whom It Stands: The Flag and the American People,” located at the Star-Spangled Banner Flag House. The exhibition presents thought-provoking works by more than 20 diverse artists who responded to an open call issued by the museum. The paintings, photographs and 3-D works express hope and optimism toward our country, as well as critique. “A Time To Mourn,” a watercolor by artist Cynthia Farrell Johnson, was conceived during the war in Iraq. There are also celebratory works, including “Freedom: Our Stories, One History; My Decades Series Quilt #9” by Joan Gaither, a quilter and historian. The quilt is patchwork of historic figures and personal stories.
Eateries want you to gnosh away. Joe Squared pizza parlor, located at Power Plant Live!, is a casual spot where diners can chose dozens of customized toppings on four different-sized pizzas. For the Star Spangled Spectacular, the restaurant will serve buckets of Baltimore craft beer for $18.12 in honor of the War of 1812. “We will also be offering a ‘Sailorbration’ discount of 10 percent for sailors and crew,” says manager Greg Russell.
The upscale Fleet Street Kitchen resembles both a beautiful cellar and ballroom mixed together. For dinner, the restaurant will offer a Star-Spangled Spectacular Prix Fixe menu, which includes oysters Rockefeller, blackened Cunningham Farms pork loin and peach skillet pie ($44 per person). For a cocktail, the Colonel Baldwin’s punch pays homage to the Revolutionary War using a combination of cognac and fresh rum juice.
All in all, there’s something for all ages, interests and taste buds.