SF Fleet Week faces cancellation as government shutdown looms

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The Blue Angels flying squadron flies in front of the Golden Gate Bridge while practicing for its SF Fleet Week performance over the San Francisco Bay Area on Oct.10, 2019.

The Blue Angels flying squadron flies in front of the Golden Gate Bridge while practicing for its SF Fleet Week performance over the San Francisco Bay Area on Oct.10, 2019.

Douglas Zimmerman/SFGATE

With a government shutdown looking more likely by the day, it seems very possible that San Francisco Fleet Week, the city’s annual armed forces celebration, will be canceled. There is precedent for such a situation: Fleet Week was canceled almost exactly 10 years ago due to the 2013 government shutdown.

While organizers are continuing to work on plans for the 2023 show as normal, they have been honest about the fluidity of the situation. 

“San Francisco Fleet Week is standing by to take guidance from the Navy and our other military partners. Currently our staff are continuing planning as usual for the greatest Fleet Week ever. We’ll make adjustments as needed as we receive guidance,” event organizers said in a statement shared with multiple outlets.

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The government’s current spending legislation expires at midnight on Sept. 30. If lawmakers are unable to come to a new agreement before then, the government would go into a shutdown at 12:01 a.m. on Oct. 1, one day before San Francisco Fleet Week is supposed to begin.

A cancellation could wreak havoc on local businesses, especially ones near the Embarcadero, where many Fleet Week events take place. 

“That would be devastating, especially after COVID and how the economy is. That would hurt a lot of people and it would just be a domino effect. It hurts the hotels. It hurts the restaurant industry,” said Danny Pesusic, general manager at RJ’s Market, to NBC Bay Area. RJ’s Market is just off the Embarcadero. 

Not everyone would find a potential Fleet Week cancellation to be a total loss, however. The event has many detractors, who point to its militaristic overtones and large expense (a 2019 study estimated that the Blue Angels’ demonstrations cost $36 million annually). Among these Fleet Week skeptics is SFGATE politics editor Alex Shultz, who wrote in 2021, “It’s not shocking to me that San Francisco, a bastion of liberal passivity, hosts America’s fanciest fuel-wasting procession — but it’s inexcusable all the same. Fleet Week sucks.”

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If a government shutdown is avoided, San Francisco Fleet Week is scheduled to take place Oct. 2-10.

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