OpSail 2012 comes to Norfolk
Thousands of people congregated in the harbors of Norfolk, VA to celebrate OpSail 2012 commemorating the War of 1812 and the writing of the Star Spangled Banner
By Rebecca Brittingham
Vendors lined the streets. Crowds congregated in the pavilion. International ships lined the Norfolk harbors for 3 ½ miles. Pirates roamed the streets. OpSail 2012 arrived. Operation Sail Inc, (OpSail) national, the United States Navy, Norfolk Festevents and other national, state and local organizations united making OpSail 2012 a memorable celebration from June 1-June 12.
Visitors enjoyed Ryan the Balloon Guy—the extreme balloon artist; Pic-N-Paint— the best face painting artist in Hampton Roads; Wacky Chad—master pogo comedian extraordinaire; the Procrastinators—the outrageous Drummers, and break dancing. In addition to the entertainment, visitors took a walk back in time catching a glimpse of 1812 life and enjoyed the Yo-Yo People with John Higby—three-time Guinness World Record yo-yo holder.
On Saturday evening, June 8, John Higby, attracted a large crowd for his second to final stage performance. He brought back an old toy, the yo-yo and created an entire show including some of his favorite tricks: Walk the Dog and Rock the Baby. Higby’s career as a yo-yo entertainer was first inspired when he was 11 after his grandpa gave him a yo-yo. After learning different tricks, he started as a street performer in Colorado.
The crowds cheered and clapped, on Saturday evening as Higby opened his show riding in the arena on a unicycle. Higby says that “the audience makes the show.” Although he loves the interaction with the crowds, Higby says: “My favorite part [of performing] is working with my wife, Rebecca.” Something that started out as simple means of entertainment has turned into a family activity for John, his wife, Rebecca and three-year-old son.
International Tall Ships lined the harbors waving their flag majestically. Military vessels were open for public viewing. Over 4,000 international officers, cadet crews and dignitaries from over 15 different nations were represented. Hundreds of visitors toured the International ships and learned how each country operates its Navy. While some of the ships are fully operating Navy vessels, other including the Dewaruci, representing Indonesia, are training vessels for rising military officers.
Yoga S. Permana, 2ndyear cadet in the Indonesian naval academy explains that when one steps onboard the Dewaruci, he gets a taste of the Indonesian culture. He says, “This [the boat] is so about the Indonesian culture.” The Dewaruci, which is a training vessel for the Indonesian Naval Academy and an ambassador for Indonesia, has a total of 150 sailors on board. It set sail in Indonesia back in January and has been sailing around the world since waving its flags valiantly. Permana explains that every wood engraving symbolizes Indonesian culture. Through this voyage, Permana says that “one of our jobs as an ambassador is to sell our country” to the visitors.
When the Dewaruci completes her 2012 voyage, she will retire from further voyages. Unlike other ships, the Indonesian navy requires all cadets to either join the marching band or the dance team. The Dewaruci was one of the many international military vessels that represented the international Navy at OpSail 2012 from June 1-June 12. The two weeks of festivities included the Parade of Sail, ship tours, air shows, fireworks and an 1812 Walk back in time. OpSail 2012, which provided historic educational opportunities, festivities, fun and entertainment attracted thousands of visitors.