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Culture & Artsby Fern Shen5:43 pmJun 5, 20120

Sailabration kicks off with fireworks, National Anthem and … pirates?

O’Malley, Rawlings-Blake begin city’s War of 1812 Bicentennial; dredging for event came in under budget.

Above: “Pirates” briefly crashed today’s Sailabration press conference, attracting the attention of Rear Admiral Gregory Nosell and Gov. Martin O’Malley.

It was an oddly apropros moment, today, as the mayor and governor joined other public officials and event sponsors at the Inner Harbor to kick off Baltimore’s lead role in the upcoming national commemoration of the Bicentennial of the War of 1812:

A ship full of noisy shouting pirates (well, a pirate-themed tourist boat) suddenly swung into view, right in the middle of Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake’s prepared remarks.

“Ahoy! Or maybe I’m supposed to say ‘Arrgh!” Rawlings-Blake quipped, as the publicity plunderers paused long enough to flash their stern, emblazoned with the company’s phone number and web address, at the assembled audience and media.

The stunt was apt because the event the dignitaries were promoting – the June 14-18 “Star-Spangled Sailabration” – is going to feature lots of showy ships and tourist activities and herald two years of similar events themed around the War of 1812.

Rawlings-Blake didn't let pirate ship upstage the Sailabration press conference today:

Pirate ship briefly upstaging the "Sailabration" press conference today. (Photo by Fern Shen)

It all begins next week as more than 40 vessels come into the Inner Harbor, Fell’s Point and North Locust Point.

There will be naval warships from Britain, Canada and the U.S. and tall ships from Mexico, Brazil, Columbia, Ecuador, Indonesia and elsewhere.

The boats’ crews will offer free tours and the Navy’s Blue Angels flight demonstration team will be putting on a free show as well. (June 16 and 17 from 1 to 4 p.m.)

For details on these “Sailabration” events and features, including kid-stuff (climbing wall, sand sculptures) and adult-stuff (commemorative coin sales, beer gardens and a crabcake cooking competition), go here.

There are some intriguing events planned. You’ve got to love a performance (6/17) that includes Phillip Glass music (the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra will be performing a commissioned work by the minimalist composer, “Overture for 2012”) and the governor’s rollicking Celtic rock band, O’Malley’s March.

Today there were fireworks, remarks by Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz (naturally he had to plug his county’s part in the 1812 story, the Battle of North Point) and flags representing the visiting ships’ countries, carried by students from Francis Scott Key Technology Magnet School.

Dredging up History

One more reason today’s pirate “attack” was somewhat fitting was the fact that the military event being commemorated was the War of 1812, which involved the actual attack launched on Baltimore by British naval ships in Sept. 1814.

Fort McHenry, which famously survived that pounding by the British Navy’s rockets and mortar shells, will be part of the Sailabration and subsequent Bicentennial activities.

“We commemorate this history with a great celebration. This entire harbor will be filled with tall ships, naval vessels, the Blue Angels screeching overhead,”  O’Malley said.

Mayor Rawlings-Blake announces details of the

Mayor Rawlings-Blake announces details of the "Star-Spangled Sailabration." (Photo by Fern Shen)

All this commemoration, of course, comes at a cost. In preparation for the incoming tall ships, the city appropriated $1.65 million to dredge 80,000 cubic yards of sediment in the Inner Harbor to accommodate the flotilla.

However, the low bid by McLean Contracting Co. came in at $1,069,000 – nearly $600,000 below budget. (Note to Jack Young and the City Council: Here’s a saving to apply to the 2013 budget.)

Jamie Kendrick, deputy director of the Baltimore Department of Transportation, confirmed that McLean has completed the dredging but not yet submitted its final invoice.

“The work was to be done one week before the parade of vessels. We made it with three days to spare,” Kendrick said.

– Mark Reutter contributed to this story.

Tourguide Fred Taylor (aka Francis Scott Key) and boat captain Garry Domnisse, of the Watermark chartered tour company. (Photo by Fern Shen

Tour guide Fred Taylor (aka Francis Scott Key) and boat captain Garry Domnisse, of the Watermark chartered tour company. (Photo by Fern Shen)

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