History

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.

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, along with 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 exhibits about oysters. 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 bare footing.
* 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 was a goal along as well as creating a unique sporting event. Fashion became an integral part of the gathering, not only for the players, but also for the spectators who traditionally appear in 1920s Gatsby-era clothing. Each team is decked out in uniforms with a special theme that is kept under wraps until the game. Festivities include music, picnicking, dancing, and it all amounts to a huge lawn party.

USNA Commissioning Week

USNA Commissioning Week. Photo courtesy of VAAAC

All graduations are special, but in Annapolis it seems as though the entire town is 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 an alteration of the school calendar moved the events to May.

The climb to the top 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 Naval-Marine Corps 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, patriotic speeches, and the sight of the traditional hat toss by the graduates completing the ceremony. Afterwards, collecting midshipmen’s hats is a special bonus for manyh children.

Please note while the Sock Burning and Oyster Roast and the Annapolis Croquet Cup have been cancelled this year due to COVID-19, you can look forward to all of the many ways to enjoy Spring every coming year in Annapolis here.

Lois Villemaire

Lois Villemaire is retired from a career in local government and is now exploring her interest in creative writing, sometimes combined with researching family history. The latter has provided her with colorful and unique material. Lois enjoys walking around downtown and practicing yoga. She volunteers at The Wellness House of Annapolis, a strength and support resource for cancer patients, survivors, and their families. She lives in Annapolis with her husband and they love reading, restaurants, music, and spending time with their children and grandchildren.