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All-Virtual Fleet Week Port Everglades Starts This Month, Looks To Be In-Person Again In 2022

Residents toured a nuclear submarine as part of the 29th annual Fleet Week at Port Everglades in early May 2019.
Caitie Switalski Munoz
Residents toured a nuclear submarine as part of the 29th annual Fleet Week at Port Everglades in early May 2019.

Virtual Fleet Week events, spanning over two weeks, run this year from April 21 to May 9.

There was no Fleet Week at Port Everglades in 2020, thanks to the coronavirus. Fleet Week is usually when the Navy and Coast Guard send their ships for a visit, and civilians can come to the port to meet sailors.

This year's Fleet Week Port Everglades is still on as the pandemic continues, just in a non-traditional way. Virtual events — and yes, ship tours — will last for more than two weeks.

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This year's Fleet Week events are taking place online.

"Fleet Week traditionally is a way for the community and the supporters to engage with each other and for the community to be able to take ship tours and really physically see what the Navy has to show off," Jesse Adams said. Adams is the chair of the Board for Broward Navy Days, the local nonprofit that organizes Fleet Week here.

"When we first started talking about doing something virtual, we struggled with it a little bit," Adams said. "But, as with the rest of the world, the virtual events just became much more normal and we just really wanted to keep the connection between the military and South Florida going."

Adams says Fleet Week events this year won't shy away from talking about the pandemic.

"The Coast Guard is very much a part of our South Florida fabric," Adams continued "So I'm looking forward to hearing from those Coast Guard leaders about what sort of challenges they've had and what they're doing relative to COVID."

The executive director of Broward Navy Days, J.W. Arnold, said they've adapted the most popular events — the ship tours — for a virtual audience.

"The good news is you don't need a ticket or have to wait in a line to get on board those ships," Arnold explained. "We know it's not quite the same, but we hope that the Virtual Fleet Week will capture the spirit of Fleet Week Port Everglades here in Fort Lauderdale."

Arnold said he's most looking forward to a Marines event, something that wouldn't be possible to bring to a South Florida audience if this year's events weren't online.

"I'm a little biased because I'm a former Marine — but we're going to actually be sharing the famed Marine Barracks Friday Evening Parade during Fleet Week," Arnold said. "Folks will have the opportunity to watch that tradition on their on their computers or their phones and really experience that. That's something we can't bring to South Florida. It has the Marine Drum and Bugle Corps, the Marine Band, the silent drill platoon ... even cannons and bugles. It's just fantastic. And that's definitely going to be one of the highlights, I think."

The Broward Navy Days website and Fleet Week Port Everglades Facebook page will have links to both the live and the on demand events.

Fleet Week starts April 21 and runs through May 9. With COVID-19 vaccines rolling out to the general Florida population now, the event organizers are looking forward to seeing visitors be able to meet with members of the military at the port again in 2022.

"We're not quite ready to announce what sort of, you know, extra events that we want to try to put on for 2022," Adams said. "But at this moment, we certainly anticipate that 2022 will be back to a live, in-person Fleet Week."

Caitie Muñoz, formerly Switalski, leads the WLRN Newsroom as Director of Daily News & Original Live Programming. Previously she reported on news and stories concerning quality of life in Broward County and its municipalities for WLRN News.
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