Don’t expect to see sailors “manning the rails” of destroyers or cutters parading through New York Harbor this spring. Don’t expect to see more than 3,000 men and women in uniform taking over the city streets, standing in line at the Empire State Building or in the outfield at Yankees and Mets games. Instead, to get a glimpse of the military action, spectators will only need a phone or computer. Like most major events in 2020 and 2021, this year’s Fleet Week New York is going virtual.
The patriotic festivities are more than just a signal to New Yorkers that summer is on the horizon — the event typically overlaps with Memorial Day. The celebration of all seafaring service members draws tourists from around the country.
After the New York metro area saw a sharp spike in new coronavirus cases in January of this year, numbers have fallen steadily. Still, as of late February, just over 5% of those living in New York City had completed the COVID-19 vaccine series.
“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,” Rear Adm. Charles W. Rock, Commander, Navy Region Mid Atlantic, stated in a press release.
Fleet Week is an annual tradition in which the Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard team up to show off the military’s latest capabilities to the public. Since the 1980s, the services have used it as a recruiting tool.
For New Yorkers, Fleet Week is more than just an opportunity to spark the interest of future sailors or Marines. The New York Economic Development Corporation says the maritime-themed week of events typically brings $20 million in annual revenue to the city. For a country and city still reeling from the economic implications of coronavirus shutting down hotels, restaurants, tourist attractions, and more, the news of another virtual event delivers a sharp blow. This isn’t unprecedented, however. In 2013, Fleet Week New York was canceled entirely, just one month before the massive event, due to budget cuts brought on by sequestration.
One benefit to the online event? You don’t have to call the Big Apple home to take part in this long-standing tradition.
“We’re excited to once again connect with people online in New York and all around the world,” Rock said. “No matter where you are, you will be able to find us on social media and watch whenever it is convenient for them so they can see how the Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard safeguard our nation and how incredible the men and women who serve in uniform are.”
The Navy hopes to build on what was already a successful online event in 2020. Highlights of Fleet Week each year include aircraft demonstrations and in-person ship tours. More than 170,000 people viewed videos posted as part of last year’s Virtual Fleet Week New York.
Mark your calendars for May 26 through May 31 for all of the virtual access to the events taking place in the sea and the sky. Fleet Week New York is still developing this year’s schedule but will post all updates on its Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter accounts.