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Cancelled LA Fleet Week may get new date next year



L.A. Fleet Week 2020 is “definitely not happening in 2020” as a live event, said Jonathan Williams, who heads up the L.A. Fleet Week Foundation. Like so many other events amid the pandemic, it will, however, take on a “virtual” presence.

The cancellation had not been announced formally, but most folks in San Pedro had already assumed that, of course. Most everything has been canceled because of the coronavirus outbreak.

The Labor Day extravaganza has drawn up to 250,000 people to San Pedro’s waterfront for the past four years and it will be missed — especially economically.

There have been some behind-the-scenes talks about a L.A. Fleet Week being scheduled for Memorial Day 2021 — which also could lead to a permanent calendar shift from Labor Day to Memorial Day weekend in the years going forward, according to those involved in the talks.

To pull off an event that big for Memorial Day in May 2021 might be an optimistic stretch, considering that the resurgent COVID-19’s spread, so far, shows no signs of letting up.

Safety will be the primary consideration, O’Rourke said.

“The Fleet Week organization and the city would have to determine what is best for the neighborhoods and the city of Los Angeles and for everyone’s health,” O’Rourke said. “If the pandemic is still a danger, we’ll be looking at it as well, not only from the standpoint of the welfare of our troops but also for the neighborhoods. Is it the right thing to do?”

“What 2021 looks like is indefinite at the moment,” Williams said.

But reported progress on the development of possible vaccines and more effective treatments are keeping that hope for 2021 alive for now.

Planning a Fleet Week, said Navy spokesman Brian O’Rourke, typically requires a five- to six-month period.

But since the L.A. event, after four years, is now established, he said, “We could probably cut that six-month window down and still pull off a good Fleet week” in less time than that.

It will all depend on COVID-19.

“L.A. puts on a great Fleet Week, it’s one of the best,” O’Rourke said. “Obviously this year has been very difficult, not just for Fleet Weeks but for any large event. It’s just been a very tough year.”

This year’s fifth annual L.A. Fleet Week event would have rolled out from Sept. 4 to 7, about three weeks from now. The annual festivities feature visiting ships and active-duty service members from the U.S. Navy, U.S. Marines and U.S. Coast Guard who descend on the waterfront to open up their ships for tours and take part in an array of land and seaside activities and demonstrations. A free, outdoor waterfront concert has been a main highlight of the L.A. version of the popular military-themed event.

This year, O’Rourke said, the Navy has moved to only virtual versions of Fleet Weeks, including for those in New York, San Francisco and San Diego.

“This year probably is not the year to” draw huge crowds together, O’Rourke said. “But the Navy felt it was still important that we celebrate those bonds so while we’re not able to be there physically, there are still things we can do ‘virtually.’”

That will include virtual ship tours, Navy Band concerts and other highlights on videos now being produced. They will be available on all of the participants’ social media platforms throughout the Labor Day weekend when Fleet Week normally would occur.

In January, port officials reported that the $3.5 million, four-day L.A. Fleet Week event had already become the waterfront’s major ongoing tourist draw. It was also fast becoming the cornerstone for what would be the new L.A. Waterfront’s reputation as a growing, regional destination.

Then, by February-March, as the pandemic exploded, the pause button was punched on just about everyone’s plans, including, presumably, the upcoming 2020 Fleet Week.

Los Angeles City Councilman Joe Buscaino supports the Memorial Day shift for a Fleet Week in May 2021 “in the hopes that our city and our country will be able to resume social gathering by then.”

Discussions to also permanently move the annual event, going forward, from Labor Day weekend in September to Memorial Day weekend in May are ongoing, Williams said.

O’Rourke confirmed that such a calendar change could be accommodated by the Navy but the decision will be up to Los Angeles, the host city.

Not only is the weather usually cooler, the seasonal switch would be a promotional boost that could be tied to the start of summer, according to supporters.

The calendar change, Williams said, would be a benefit “for multiple reasons.”

An announcement regarding some of those discussions by the foundation and the Navy, he said, could come in a few weeks.

Source: Orange County Register

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