Certain well-known traditions declare the arrival of spring in Annapolis. Here’s a snapshot of several of these one-of-a-kind events that contribute to the reputation of our town as a unique destination.
Oyster Roast and Spring Sock Burning
Annapolis Oyster Roast & Sock Burning. Photo courtesy of VAAAC.
Tracing the history of this tradition reveals mixed dates of origin. Some say that it was initiated in reaction to the harsh winter of 1977, and others insist that it began in the early 1980s. Whatever the exact date, local yardman and sailor Bob Turner and his fellow workers decided to permanently get rid of their socks - a symbol of winter- by throwing them into a bonfire on the occasion of the spring equinox. The spirit of this idea caught on and was held each spring. Since 2010, the Oyster Roast & Sock Burning has taken place at the Annapolis Maritime Museum with musical entertainment, food, drink, and special oyster exhibits. Most of all, it’s the festive gathering of friends and neighbors, along with appearances by public officials welcoming the spring boating season. It may come as a surprise to learn that certain etiquette is observed by participants, including:
* Only socks shall be burned - no other items. * When removing socks, step into shoes for safety. No barefooting. * Carefully place wool or cotton socks into the flames (no fleece).
Special Croquet Match for the Annapolis Cup
The Annapolis Croquet Cup. Photo courtesy of VAAAC.
Springtime in Annapolis includes the traditional croquet match between the United States Naval Academy Midshipmen and the St. John’s College Johnnies. This well-attended and much-anticipated event has been happening annually since 1982. Rumors say that the history of the friendly competition began when the commandant of the USNA stated that the Midshipmen could beat the Johnnies at any sport, and somehow the challenge of a croquet match was proposed. Building goodwill between the schools and creating a unique sporting event was a goal. Fashion became an integral part of the gathering for the players and the spectators who traditionally appeared in 1920s Gatsby-era clothing. Each team is decked out in uniforms with a particular theme kept under wraps until the game. Festivities include music, picnicking, and dancing, basically a massive lawn party!
Racing across the Eastport Bridge in the .05K Race. Image courtesy of the Maritime Republic of Eastport.
Described as "the least challenging athletic event ever conceived" by Runner's World magazine, the .05k extreme sports event is a grueling test of mental and physical toughness. Some competitors have taken up to five minutes to complete the course that begins on the Annapolis side of the Spa Creek Bridge. In a true testament to the difficulty of this race, it begins promptly at the crack o’ NOON. Proceeds from race registrations go back into the community.
USNA Commissioning Week. Photo courtesy of VAAAC
All graduations are unique, but in Annapolis, the entire town seems part of USNA Commissioning Week, packed with a schedule of long-standing traditional events. The week had been known as June Week but was renamed in 1979 when the school calendar changed the events to May.
The climb to the top of Herndon Monument signifies and celebrates the end of the first year of study. Mids started recording the time it took to reach the top in the early 1960s. The performance of the Blue Angels air show is enjoyed by families of the graduates as well as Annapolis area residents. If we are lucky enough with the weather, the practice day before the actual flight is another chance to view the excitement of this spectacular show. The graduation ceremonies have been located in the Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium since 1966. My family and I attended in 1997 when our son-in-law, John Cooke, was commissioned. I was very impressed by the rows and rows of white uniforms moving in perfect unison, the patriotic speeches, and the sight of the traditional hat toss by the graduates completing the ceremony. Afterward, collecting midshipmen’s hats is a special bonus for many children.