Countdown begins for Mids' hat toss

Full week of activities leads up to graduation

May 21, 1999|By Neal Thompson | Neal Thompson,SUN STAFF

The moment all midshipmen at the Naval Academy dream about is when, at the end of their graduation ceremony, they can toss their white hats into the air to signal the end of their Annapolis days and the start of their career in the Navy or Marine Corps.

For the Class of 1999, that moment will arrive after noon Wednesday.

But leading up to the spectacular sight of 1,000 skyward hats is Commissioning Week, a shipload of events beginning tomorrow that are part of academy tradition, and contribute to Annapolis' parking woes.

The first and most bizarre of the week's traditions is the annual Plebe Recognition Ceremony, also known as the Herndon Climb.

The 1,000 members of the freshman class run across campus to 21-foot Herndon Monument, which sophomores have coated with 200 pounds of lard. The freshmen, called "plebes," attempt to build human pyramids to hoist a classmate to the top of the obelisk, where they must knock off a plebe cap, called a "Dixie Cup," and replace it with an upper classman's hat.

Last year, the feat took 2 hours and 22 minutes; in 1995, it took more that four hours.

This spectacle is open to the public and occurs around 2 p.m.

On Sunday, the Blue Angels -- the Navy's six-jet precision flying team -- will rehearse about 2 p.m. above the Severn River for their show on Monday. Rehearsal is a favorite event for Annapolis area residents, who can watch the show without the crowds.

On Monday, the Blue Angels will perform at 2 p.m., for one to two hours.

The show this year will be marred slightly by a change in the Federal Aviation Administration-required spectator-free crash zone.

The new zone makes Dewey Field -- formerly the best site for viewing the show -- off-limits.

The change was prompted by lawyer Brendan Sullivan's refusal to relocate a backyard party he holds each year at his home across the river. Last year the yard was in the crash zone, and the show was delayed while officials negotiated with him to move the party. Sullivan refused to move the party again this year, so the zone was shifted 150 feet southeast.

Now the best place to watch is from Hospital Point and Ingram Field, farther from the center of the show.

At 11 a.m. Tuesday, the midshipmen will perform their final marching parade on Worden Field, the academy's grassy rectangle surrounded by stately, brick officers' quarters. Graduating seniors finish the parade by running to the pool in Lejeune Hall and jumping -- wool uniforms and all -- into the water.

At 10 a.m. Wednesday, the graduation ceremony begins at the Navy-Marines Corps stadium. The Blue Angels will make another appearance, flying over the stadium in a "V" formation.

This year's commencement speaker will be Secretary of Defense William S. Cohen, a former senator from Maine who has been President Clinton's defense secretary since 1997.

After all Mids have received their diplomas, they'll shout out a "hip-hip hurrah" chant, then toss their caps.

Other events between now and the hat toss include:

Dress parade at 11 a.m. today on Worden Field.

Trident Brass concert at noon today at the chapel.

Shuttle boat trips to the USS Hayler, a destroyer that will be moored in the Chesapeake Bay, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. tomorrow (Information: 410-293-6062).

Men's Glee Club concert 8: 30 p.m. Sunday in Mahan Hall.

Pre-Blue Angels "Electric Brigade" concert, 1 p.m. Monday, Ingram Field.

Performance by organist Monte Maxwell, 4 p.m. Monday in the chapel.

Men's and Women's Glee Club concert, 8: 30 p.m. Monday in Mahan Hall.

Gospel Choir concert, 7 p.m. Tuesday in Mahan Hall.

Pub Date: 5/21/99

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