Fleet Week is finally back in South Florida after a 2-year hiatus due to COVID-19

Fleet Week – U.S. Navy Ship — Courtesy: Shutterstock — Marc Sitkin

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fl. – Fleet Week is back and better than ever! The long-awaited festivities kicked off on Sunday with an ‘All Hands on Deck Welcoming Party and Concert’ full of coastguardsmen, sailors, and sea cadets at the Las Olas Oceanside Park.

Some of the first ships began to arrive early Sunday morning. 

The celebration lasts all week long after being halted for two years due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It’s great to be able to continue this tradition, especially after three years off,” said U.S. Navy Rear Adm. John Menoni, commander, Expeditionary Strike Group Two. “Besides the great beaches and food, this is an opportunity for our Sailors to connect with the local population, to share stories. It’s an opportunity for the public to tour our ships and meet the men and women of the U.S. Navy, who will soon be at sea over the horizon in harm’s way, protecting us from our adversaries.”

The visiting ships include two U.S. Navy destroyers, the USS Lassen (DDG-82) and USS Delbert Black (DDG-119), and USCGC William Flores (WPC-1103). The Delbert Black and Lassen are both Arleigh Burke-class destroyers that are based at Mayport Naval Station, while the William Flores is a ‘Fast Response Coastguard Cutter’ from Miami.

“This is a way to give back to our community,” explained U.S. Navy Capt. Gregory Smith. “When us Sailors are truly at work, we’re at sea for weeks or months at a time. So to be back here in Fort Lauderdale for Fleet Week, it’s special. This is our chance to really connect with the people of South Florida.”

Since 1990, Broward Navy Days and other military support organizations have hosted Fleet Week Port Everglades. It provides a fun opportunity for South Floridians to watch first-hand the latest capabilities of maritime services and gain a deeper understanding of how the sea services support the national defense of the U.S. and its maritime strategy.

There were some new community outreach events added to this year’s program, including a welcoming brunch and opening ceremony that took place Sunday afternoon. 

The sailors aboard the ships will spend the upcoming week going all over South Florida. In addition to taking in sporting events and touring schools, they will also take part in a chili cook-off competition and a special ‘Beach Olympics’ competition that will occur right on the shoreline. 

On top of all that fun, residents will also get the opportunity to board the ships, as they will be open to visitors daily beginning Monday at 8 a.m.

In order for more people to take part than ever before, officials have also extended the visiting hours for the very first time this year.

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