TAMPA — The forced federal budget cuts that doomed the MacDill AirFest and imperil the Albert Whitted Airport control tower now turn to the sea for savings — spelling an end to this year's Tampa Bay Navy Week.
With a Blue Angels air show and a port visit by the USS Halyburton frigate canceled by the cuts, there are not enough public events to carry out the program that had been scheduled for the first week in April in the bay area, said Navy Week spokesman Lt. Chika Onyekanne. "It is canceled, but we were able to salvage some of the events and are going to continue to do some outreach that week anyway," Onyekanne said.
Tampa Bay Navy Week usually coincides annually with another big event, such as Gasparilla festivities or the MacDill AirFest. This year, it would have led up to the April 6-7 AirFest — but that event, which included shows by the Blue Angels — was canceled earlier because of the budget cuts.
And last week, despite pointed objections, the Federal Aviation Administration announced it would go forward with closing the tower at St. Petersburg's Albert Whitted Airport, one of 149 towers at small airports nationwide that will start going dark in April.
For a scaled-back Navy Week, members of the U.S. Central Command, Navy Operational Support Center Tampa, and Navy Recruiting District of Miami are scheduled to make presentations to civic groups and community service organizations next week. Those events include visiting clubs, volunteering at Metropolitan Ministries and participating in Navy Night at an April 5 Tampa Bay Rays game.