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This week is Navy Week in Duluth

The Blue Angels, the U.S. Navy’s flight demonstration squadron, fly in formation in May at the Rhode Island National Guard Open House Air Show in Quonset, R.I. The Blue Angels will perform at the Duluth Air and Aviation Expo next weekend. (Photo courtesy of the Navy)1 / 2
A member of the U.S. Navy parachute team, the Leap Frogs, flies an American flag during a jump over New York City in October 2012. The parachute team will be in Duluth this week as part of Navy Week. (Photo courtesy of the Navy)2 / 2

The U.S. Navy will establish a beachhead in Duluth this week.

“The purpose of a Navy Week is to go into a city where there isn’t a large naval presence,” said Gary Ross of the Navy Office of Community Outreach. “We try to educate the people about what we really do. And the best way to do that, we have found, is face to face.”

Navy Week will bring Navy personnel from admirals to sailors to water and sky divers to musicians to town at a number of venues. It culminates with the weekend appearances by the Navy’s elite Blue Angels at the Duluth Air and Aviation Expo.

Navy Weeks were launched in 2005 and have taken place 175 times, Ross said. They often are linked to a Blue Angels appearance.

Last year, because of federal spending cuts under budget sequestration, no Navy Weeks took place, Ross said. Duluth’s week is one of only six this year, he said, although the number will be doubled next year.

It didn’t hurt the city’s case that Duluthian Roger Reinert, a lieutenant in the Navy Reserve, is a Navy public affairs officer. Duluth had a scaled-down version of a Navy Week in 2008, Reinert said, but the last such event in the state was in the Twin Cities in 2010.

“I had mentioned … that if there was going to be another Navy Week in Minnesota there was a good case to be made for Duluth as a host,” said Reinert, who also represents the city in the state Senate.

Navy Weeks take place in metropolitan areas as large as Atlanta and Dallas-Fort Worth, Ross said, but it’s easier to be noticed in a smaller community like Duluth.

“We love coming to smaller-market cities because we really make an impact on the city during that week,” he said. “And it’s much easier to be seen and to really interact with the citizens.”

Ross said he’s especially excited about Thursday, when a Navy band, a SEALs fitness challenge, a jump by the Navy parachute team Leap Frogs and a “special warfare truck” all will be part of a daylong event in conjunction with the Boys and Girls Clubs at the Heritage Sports Center in Lincoln Park. Hours are 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

“It’s gonna be a hoot,” Ross said. “We can’t wait for it.”

For Reinert, the highlight will be the dedication of the anchor from the decommissioned USS Duluth at 2 p.m. Friday along the Lakewalk adjacent to the Vietnam and Korean war veterans’ memorials.

“I got a chance to spend time with the (USS Duluth) alumni crew last summer when they had their first get-together here in Duluth, and I was just blown away by the affinity they have for our community because they served aboard her namesake,” Reinert said.

The former crew members were committed to bringing artifacts from the ship to Duluth, Reinert said, and the 11¼-ton anchor is a result.

The Navy Band will make several appearances, but don’t expect Sousa marches. Playing under the name Horizon, the seven-member ensemble has a repertoire that ranges from Top 40 to classic rock, Motown, funk and jazz.

Some other highlights of the coming week:

  • “Navy Life” presentation at the Duluth Area Family YMCA, 302 W. First St., 1:30 p.m. Tuesday.
  • U.S. Navy divers perform demonstrations at the Great Lakes Aquarium, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Friday.
  • U.S. Navy Band Horizon performs at 11 a.m. Friday, Canal Park.
  • U.S. Navy Night at the Movies in the Park, featuring a Horizon performance and a showing of “Top Gun,” 6 p.m. Friday, Leif Erikson Park.
  • Duluth Air and Aviation Expo featuring the Blue Angels, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, Duluth International Airport.

The parachute team and the band also will make appearances in the Twin Cities on Wednesday.

But the rest of the week belongs to Duluth, Reinert said: “Folks are going to know … that the Navy is here.”