TAMPA — Skilled chefs, a talented photographer and a bevy of skydivers are coming to town next week to show there's more to the Navy than sailors.
As one of 20 cities selected to host the event, Tampa will celebrate Navy Week from Friday through March 21 with activities across the Tampa Bay area, concluding with a headlining performance by the Blue Angels at MacDill Airfest.
Crew members of the USS Florida, an Ohio-class guided missile submarine, will cover the community each day with events and appearances.
During the week, people will get a chance to swim alongside Navy divers at Adventure Island, watch a parachute demonstration by the "Leap Frogs" at Steinbrenner Field and enjoy the music of the Navy's band, Pride, at Channelside.
And there's more.
The event is an opportunity for a community without a sizable Navy presence to get acquainted with this branch of the military and its diversity, said Lt. Dave Hecht, a field officer for the Navy Office of Community Outreach.
"We want to show people that no matter what your career aspirations are, you can do it in the Navy," Hecht said.
It's also a way for people to learn more about how the Navy works and where their tax dollars are going, he said.
This is the third year Navy Week has come to Tampa. It happened in 2007 and 2008 around the same time as Gasparilla. Though no Navy ships will be able to visit this year due to logistical reasons, the earlier date times it perfectly with MacDill Airfest, Hecht said.
The Blue Angels will demonstrate their aerial skills, along with B-25s, C-54s and P-51 Mustangs at the free, annual Airfest on March 20 and 21.
It all kicks off Friday night aboard the SS American Victory docked at Channelside. Tickets can be purchased at the door: $10 for adults, $5 for kids ages 4 to 12, and teenagers get in free. You can meet sailors and get an introduction to Navy life with tours of the ship.
The week continues with events aimed at children and adults alike, including a cooking demonstration by the USS Florida's chefs, visits to schools and a photo exhibit by Petty Officer 1st Class Monica Nelson, depicting a side of the war in Afghanistan not often seen on the news: humanitarian relief.
Shelley Rossetter can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (813) 226-3374.