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Tall ships enter Baltimore’s Inner Harbor during the 2012 Sailabration. (The Daily Record/Maximilian Franz)

Organizers have high hopes for Star-Spangled Spectacular

Looking out onto Fort McHenry, the site that inspired the National Anthem, local tourism officials announced their high expectations for the anniversary of that anthem.

The Star-Spangled Spectacular, which will celebrate the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Baltimore and the Star-Spangled Banner, will take place in September throughout Baltimore. It will culminate two years of War of 1812 commemorations, which kicked off with the Star-Spangled Sailabration in June 2012.

Tall ships and naval ships will arrive in Baltimore on Sept. 10 and stay until Sept. 16. Leading up to their arrival, commemorations will take place Sept. 6-9.

The Spectacular could be a record-setting event for Baltimore. The Sailabration brought 1.54 million people to the city, setting records at the Baltimore Visitor Center and a number of local businesses and services. A report that followed the event estimated that its total economic impact was $166 million.

Organizers of the Spectacular are hoping to meet or beat that 1.54 million mark, said Ann Beegle, executive director of Star-Spangled 200 Inc., who was appointed in 2011 to lead planning of the two years of commemorative events.

During the 2012 events, she said, a lot of local residents may not have understood the magnitude of Sailabration until they saw the Blue Angels flying over their heads.

But this time, “we can say it’s like Sailabration, but more,” said Beegle.

She also said that the timing of the Spectacular may work better for attracting locals, as families may have been on vacation during the June Sailabration.

The Spectacular will include living history demonstrations, a Blue Angels air show, naval ship displays and what is expected to be the largest fireworks display ever to take place in Maryland.

“In some ways, Spectacular is Sailabration 2.0, but there will be many enhancements,” said Bill Pencek, executive director of the Maryland War of 1812 Bicentennial Commission, which was created by Gov. Martin J. O’Malley in 2007 to plan the war commemorations.

The Spectacular is not the only event hitting Baltimore that week. While the commemorations are taking place, the Orioles will also host three weekend games against the Yankees, and the Ravens will host the Steelers in Baltimore for a Thursday game.

“This week is going to be jamming in Baltimore,” said Tom Noonan, president and CEO of Visit Baltimore. “We wanted to extend that experience all summer long,” said Noonan.

For that reason, Visit Baltimore shifted some of its Spectacular budget to fund summer events leading up to the anthem anniversary. From June 28 to September 1, Fort McHenry will host Fort! Flag! Fire!, a series of events including daily programming with live historians and special events such as military displays, a July 4th celebration and a crab feast. Visit Baltimore contributed $117,000 to the summer events.

In addition to the events at Fort McHenry, Star Spangled 200’s Chesapeake Campaign will continue throughout the summer in various locations throughout the state to mark the anniversaries of battles that took place there.

“You don’t have to leave Maryland this summer,” said Pencek.