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Fleet Week is a public relations tradition in the American military. During Fleet Week, ships on active duty make port as a collective group, allowing the crews of the ships to spend some time on shore while members of the public can tour the ships and meet members of the military. Fleet Week events take place at large American ports like Seattle, Los Angeles, New York, and San Francisco, and they are designed to improve relations between the military and the civilian world.
The tradition dates back to the early 20th century, and it has become a highly ritualized tradition. Classically, the ships involved in the event rendezvous at sea so that they can make a grand processional entrance to the harbor. The crews are expected to turn out in dress whites, and the ships are often greeted with fireworks, civilian sailboats, and large crowds who gather on shore to watch the ships coming in. The grand entrance may also include displays of agility from amphibious watercraft.
Once the ships dock, their crews are released for shore leave, and Fleet Week events commence. During the week that the ships are in port, guided tours of many of the ships are offered, giving members of the public a chance to see what their tax dollars are paying for. Military air shows are often coordinated to occur at the same time as Fleet Week, so civilians can see the best of naval and aeronautics technology at the same time, with stunt pilots like the Blue Angels zipping overhead and performing aerial shows.
Entertainment such as concerts, dances, and exclusive dinners may take place during the week. The crews of the ships in port are also actively encouraged to roam the community, giving members of the public a chance to talk directly with active duty members of the military, and military recruiters are often prominently present during Fleet Week as well. The events tend to attract visitors from the surrounding region, with many cities turning these events into a bonanza for the tourism industry.
Attending a Fleet Week can be quite fun, especially for people who are interested in taking tours of military ships, since these ships are normally off-limits or inaccessible to the public. A search for “Fleet Week” in any search engine should turn up a listing of schedules in various American cities, for people who would like to make plans to attend.