SF's Fleet Week impacted by economic woes

September 15, 2009 7:05:17 PM PDT
Fleet Week begins in San Francisco next month. It's the city's annual salute to the military. But the recession is having an impact and there is some concern about the future of what has become a popular tradition in the city.

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Fleet Week has been a San Francisco tradition since 1981, with the Blue Angels and the parade of ships attracting huge crowds.

The USS Hornet Foundation in Alameda is a big supporter and will showcase two jet cockpits this year.

"A huge amount of San Francisco's history is around Navy traditions, nautical traditions and this is a way to celebrate that," said Pete Sutherland from the USS Hornet Museum.

In past years, the celebration has been threatened. Supervisor Chris Daly believes the military display is over the top and he's tried twice to ban the Blue Angels.

"I think having these aircraft spiraling over San Francisco, a dense urban center is a bad idea. It's not safe," said Daly.

Now it's not politics but the poor economy that Fleet Week is facing. Most fans pay nothing to watch the festivities, but it costs $500,000 to produce and it's all done with private donations.

"This year, not surprisingly sponsorships are off, people's marketing budgets are down," said Ed Leonard from the Fleet Week committee.

The show will go on this year, but what about the future?

"I don't want to say it's in doubt but we are looking for new revenue sources and contributions," said Leonard.

So for the first time, a $200 fundraiser cruise on the bay will be held next week to help Fleet Week stay afloat.

According to one estimate, one million people enjoy Fleet Week and help the local economy. That's a draw the Convention and Visitors Bureau would hate to lose.

"It would take away from the vibrancy of the city. Fleet Week attracts folks who might not come in for any other event," said Dan Goldes from the San Francisco Convention and Visitors Bureau.

They'll be coming -- starting October 8th.

Related Links: Support Fleet Week
Fleet Week San Francisco

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