The last time New Orleanians saw a flotilla of warships round the Mississippi River bend at Algiers Point, the small fleet of nine modern warships and tall ships paraded into the Crescent City in grand style to begin NOLA Navy Week 2012.
Louisiana Army National Guard soldiers greeted each passing ship with artillery salutes fired from an old Navy pier in Algiers. And a fireboat spouted red, white and blue plumes of water into the air in the shadow of Central Business District skyscrapers, as each of the ships were nudged to their berthing spots.
New Orleanians can expect a similar parade on April 23, when five warships and a Coast Guard cutter arrive for NOLA Navy Week 2015. Like three years ago, soldiers will fire artillery salutes, and the amphibious assault flattop USS Wasp again will serve as the flagship. The days that follow will include public tours of ships, a seafood cook-off between ships' mess specialists and local chefs, and a fireworks show over the Mississippi River.
"It's a momentous occasion for the port and our citizens," said Mark Romig, president and chief executive for the New Orleans Tourism Marketing Corp., which is helping the Navy host the event. "The Navy always enjoys their visits as well."
In addition to the Wasp, the Navy is sending the USS Cole and USS James E. Williams, both destroyers. Canada is sending the destroyer HMCS Athabaskan, and Great Britain is sending the frigate HMS Lancaster. The U.S. Coast Guard's 210-foot cutter Dauntless also is set to visit.
"The public will get a chance to see some of the world's most advanced warships, gear and equipment, while our sailors, Marines and Coast Guardsmen and allied sailors will have an opportunity to enjoy the great city of New Orleans," said Rear Adm. Cindy Thibaud, commander of the U.S. Navy's Expeditionary Strike Group 2, which is based in Norfolk, Va. The group is the Navy's organization behind NOLA Navy Week 2015.
During NOLA Navy Week 2012, more than 121,000 people toured the ships that were berthed along the riverfront, from the Crescent City Connection to the Gov. Nichols Street Wharf. The ships this year will berth along the same stretch of riverfront, where public tours will be offered during the week.
Missing from the line-up this year will be tall ships. Three of them visited in 2012, including the Coast Guard barque Eagle. The Eagle was expected to return this year, but for reasons that are unclear, the barque is not included in the line-up.
Also, NOLA Navy Week 2012 was to be the kick-off date for three years of War of 1812 bicentennials, which were to be held at 14 port cities in the United States. The Navy was to come full circle and end the events in the Crescent City with the Battle of New Orleans bicentennial. The Navy decided to end the bicentennial events before New Orleans.
And although a performance by the Navy's Blue Angels flight demonstration squadron was planned and canceled in 2012, and another air show was planned for 2015, this year's event will focus only on the surface attractions. The Navy has opted to scale down the event, giving the competition NOLA Navy Week 2015 faces with the second weekend of the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival and the Zurich Classic golf tournament.
Information about NOLA Navy Week 2015 can be found on the event website, www.nolanavyweek.com.