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Naval Academy commissioning week starts Monday. Here's what to see and do.

Midshipmen take the oath of office to become U.S. Navy officers during the U.S. Naval Academy's Class of 2018 graduation and commissioning ceremony in Annapolis, Md., on May 25, 2018. The Academy is allowing female midshipmen to wear ponytails and other longer hairstyles.

KAITLIN ROWELL/U.S. NAVY

By E.B. FURGURSON III | The Capital, Annapolis, Md. (TNS) | Published: May 14, 2019

(TNS) - As the Naval Academy readies to graduate over 1,000 midshipmen next week, Commissioning Week offers plenty of public events before the hat toss.

Some events are for mids and invited guests only. But from the invigorating Herndon Climb Monday to the Blue Angels practice Tuesday and the concerts, parades, parades and drill team performances throughout the week -- there's plenty the general public can enjoy.

"Commissioning Week is the highlight of the year for the United States Naval Academy. This is an opportunity for us to celebrate our reason for existing--graduating the newest ensigns and 2nd lieutenants into the Navy and Marine Corps," said USNA spokesperson Cmdr. David Mckinney.

"It also provides an opportunity for the academy to welcome parents, family, and friends from all over the world to join local residents and midshipmen in enjoying the festivities," he added. "There is no better pageantry on the yard than what you'll see during Commissioning Week."

The biggest draw of the week is the Blue Angels. Thousands flock to Annapolis or pay hooky from work or school to nab the choicest spot to view the precision flight acrobatics of the crack F/A-18 Hornet pilots.

Public spaces along the banks of the Severn River -- like Jonas Green Park and the area surrounding the Naval Academy Bridge and World War II Memorial -- are sought-after vantage points. The areas around City Dock and Spa Creek are popular, too.

And if you are an approved guest, the academy's Ingram Field and parts of Farragut Field and Hospital Point might be the greatest locations of all.

It also helps to know somebody to get a choice view from a rooftop in the city, aboard a boat or on a sprawling lawn along the Severn to witness the jets roar overhead. Both the Tuesday rehearsal and Wednesday performance are slated for a 2 p.m. start, depending on the weather.

If you aim to witness either, it pays to arrive early. Traffic, especially on Wednesday, becomes a major factor.

The Naval Academy Bridge closes both days from 10:45 a.m. to 1 p.m. for the Blue Angels arrival and again from 1:45 to 4 p.m. for the practice and performance. The bridge reopens as soon as the Blue Angels depart.

Parking will be tough and Annapolis city will be enforcing parking rules for meters and residential parking. The city recommends using city Knighton and Park Place garages and using the circulator bus to get downtown.

There is a full schedule of events for midshipmen starting Saturday night with the formal Ring Dance, awards ceremonies, the Graduation Ball, Color Parade and more.

The general public can attend a long list including the daily Morning Colors ceremonies at 8 a.m. on Tecumseh Court. The event Tuesday includes a performance from the Midshipman Silent Drill Team.

If that interests you, the Marine Corps Battle Color Detachment Performance Silent Drill Platoon will strut its stuff at 11 a.m. Tuesday on Worden Field.

That is just before the Herndon Climb at 1:30 p.m. For the unfamiliar, the climb is the culminating event for the plebe (first) year at the academy. The class forms a human pyramid of sorts to climb up the greased 21-foot-tall obelisk and replace a dixie cup sailor's hat with an upperclassman's cover.

The record time to complete the task is one minute 30 seconds by the Class of 1972, but there was no grease used that year. The longest time was the Class of 1998's four hours, five minutes, 17 seconds -- upperclassmen glued the dixie cup to the top of the monument.

Last year it took two hours, nine minutes. Get there early for a good vantage point; some arrive three hours before the event.

All events on the Naval Academy grounds are subject to strict security measures. Everyone over 18 is required to present a government-issued photo ID card to enter the grounds. All individuals and vehicles are subject to search. You must have a Department of Defense ID or midshipmen parents pass to drive onto academy grounds.

Handicapped visitors may bring vehicles onto the grounds with handicapped plates or placards; vehicles will be searched before access is granted.

Daypacks, diaper bags, camera cases and purses are allowed. Large bags, coolers, weapons and alcohol are prohibited. All bags subject to search.

For further information see usna.edu/commissioningweek.

Here's a rundown of the events open to the general public:

Friday, May 17

7:15 p.m. -- Jewish Baccalaureate Service, Levy Chapel.

Saturday, May 18

6 p.m. -- Naval Academy Band Armed Forces Concert, Zimmerman Bandstand.

Sunday, May 19

8 a.m. -- Morning Colors, Tecumseh Court.
9 a.m. -- Catholic Baccalaureate Service, Main Chapel.
10 a.m. -- Naval Academy Band Chapel Walk Concert, Zimmerman Bandstand.
11 a.m. -- Protestant Baccalaureate Service, St. Andrew's Chapel.
Noon -- Naval Academy Band Chapel Walk Concert.
Noon -- Naval Academy Band Chamber Ensemble, Barry Gate.

Monday, May 20

8 a.m. -- Morning Colors, Tecumseh Court.
11 a.m. -- Marine Corps Battle Color Detachment Performance Silent Drill Platoon, Worden Field.
12:15 p.m. -- Trident Brass Concert, Zimmerman Bandstand.
1:30 p.m. -- Class of 2021 Herndon Climb, Herndon Monument.

Tuesday, May 21

8 a.m. -- Morning Colors, USNA Silent Drill Team performance, Tecumseh Court.
11 a.m -- 1 p.m. -- Blue Angels circle and arrival.
12:05 p.m. -- Noon meal formation.
1 p.m. -- Naval Academy Pipes and Drums performance, Tecumseh Court.
2 p.m. -- 4 p.m. -- Blue Angels rehearsal.
8:30 p.m. -- Commissioning Week Glee Club and Gospel Choir Concert, Main Chapel.

Wednesday, May 22

8 a.m. -- Morning Colors, Tecumseh Court.
12:06 p.m. -- Noon meal formation, Change of Command Ceremony, Tecumseh Court.
12:45 p.m. -- Naval Academy Band concert, Ingram Field.
1 p.m. -- Navy Band Cruisers concert, Hospital Point.
2 p.m. -- Blue Angels flight demonstration.

Thursday, May 23

8 a.m. -- Morning Colors, Tecumseh Court.
11 a.m -- Color Parade, Worden Field.

Friday, May 24

10 a.m. -- Class of 2019 Graduation Ceremony, open to guests only.

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