Naval Academy Commissioning Week Is Around the Corner. Here's What to Know.

Jets fly past the Naval Academy Chapel dome
Jets fly past the Naval Academy Chapel dome. The Blue Angels performed a practice show Tuesday, May 23, 2023, in Annapolis to prepare for the Naval Academy Commissioning Week show tomorrow. (Paul W. Gillespie/Staff)

The biggest week of the year at the United States Naval Academy is just around the corner.

In the week leading up to the graduation and commissioning ceremony on May 24, the academy and Annapolis will host thousands of visitors for a broad range of activities, including concerts, award ceremonies, receptions with the superintendent and the well-watched Blue Angels flight demonstrations before members of the Class of 2024 are commissioned as officers in the Navy or Marine Corps.

Some events are open to the public. However, graduation is limited to family and guests of midshipmen.

Tuesday: Sea Trials

Modeled after the Marine Corps’ Crucible and the Navy’s Battle Station recruit programs, Sea Trials is a capstone event for the fourth-class midshipmen, or plebes.

Led by upperclassmen, the plebes will face final physical and mental tests across a variety of challenges at different stations around the academy and Naval Support Activity Annapolis over a 14-hour period. The event begins in the dark morning hours and lasts through late evening, testing the plebes’ teamwork and reinforcing their bonds as a company and class.

The company that demonstrates the top performance and spirit throughout the course will be recognized as the Iron Company.

The Naval Academy Bridge will be closed from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Additional closures will take effect from 10:15 a.m. to 1 p.m. along Route 450, Route 648, Greenbury Point Road and roads inside of Naval Support Activity Annapolis. Additional delays can be expected after roads reopen due to a build-up of traffic.

Sea Trials are not open to the public.

Wednesday: Herndon Monument Climb

The Herndon Climb serves as the culmination of the plebes’ first year at the academy, marking their transition from plebes to fourth-class midshipmen.

Their final test comes with their climb up the 21-foot obelisk, which is greased with 200 pounds of vegetable shortening. The barefoot plebes, led by the Iron Company — the top company from the previous day’s Sea Trials — will form a human pyramid to retrieve the white dixie cup hat atop the monument and replace it with an upperclassman’s hat.

The monument is named for Cmdr. William Lewis Herndon, who drowned with his ship off the coast of North Carolina in 1857 after trying to save as many passengers as possible.

The class of 2027 will attempt to scale the obelisk faster than last year’s plebes, who completed the climb in 2 hours and 32 minutes.

The Herndon Climb is open to the public. The event begins at 8 a.m.

May 21: Blue Angels flight demonstration

The Blue Angels, the Navy’s flight demonstration squadron, will arrive in Annapolis around 11 a.m., circling the area ahead of their afternoon rehearsal. The pilots will then take to the skies for a practice air show over the Severn River from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m.

The Naval Academy, or Route 450, bridge will be closed to vehicle and pedestrian traffic from 10:45 a.m. to 1 p.m., then again from 1:45 p.m. through the completion of the rehearsal at approximately 4 p.m.

The Severn River will be closed to unauthorized vessel traffic from the Naval Academy bridge to Spa Creek until an all-clear is given.

May 22: Blue Angels

All eyes will be on the skies again as the Blue Angels squadron performs a series of aerobatic maneuvers over the Severn River in their official flight demonstration. The show begins at 2 p.m., wrapping up around 4 p.m.

Both shows are open to the public. Ideal viewing areas include city streets, parks and any spot on the water.

The Naval Academy bridge will be closed to all traffic from 1:45 p.m. to 4 p.m. or until the conclusion of the flight demonstration. The Severn River will be closed to boats and other watercraft from the bridge to Spa Creek. Contact the U.S. Coast Guard at 410-576-2693 for further details.

Heavy traffic is expected in Annapolis. Those entering and leaving the city should plan to use Rowe Boulevard and U.S. 50 or alternate routes.

May 23: Color Parade

Held on Worden Field at the academy, the final formal parade of the spring highlights the presentation of the color company pennant by the superintendent, the company commander and the “color honoree” to the newly designated spring color company.

The color company is chosen each semester by virtue of its excellence in academics, athletics and professional accomplishments. The color company competition dates back to 1867.

This event is open to the public and starts at 11 a.m.

May 24: Graduation and commissioning ceremony

The week culminates with a graduation and commissioning ceremony at the Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium. Guests are encouraged to arrive early in advance of heavy traffic. Parking at the stadium will open at 6:30 a.m.  The stadium will open to guests at 7 a.m.

Midshipmen will begin their procession into the stadium at 9 a.m. The ceremony begins at 10 a.m. with a Blue Angels flyover set for 10:04 a.m. During the ceremony, the graduating midshipmen are commissioned into the Navy as ensigns or into the Marine Corps as 2nd lieutenants.

The commencement speech typically rotates between the president, vice president and secretary of defense. Last year, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin delivered the remarks to the Class of 2023, assuring the graduates that they were ready. This year’s speaker has not yet been announced.

The ceremony is only open to a limited number of guests of graduates.


Heavy traffic is anticipated in Annapolis throughout the week, particularly Wednesday, May 22, and Friday, May 24.

There is limited parking available on the Naval Academy grounds. The best option for getting onto The Yard is parking at the Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium and taking the free shuttle to enter through the visitor center at Gate 1, according to the City of Annapolis.

Parking will be limited in downtown Annapolis, as well. For visitors coming for the Blue Angels flight demonstrations, city parking garages are the best bet.

Gate information

Gate 1: The main visitor gate to the Naval Academy is located downtown at the corner of King George and Randall streets. GPS address: 52 King George St., Annapolis, 21402.

Gate 3: This gate is located at the intersection of Maryland Avenue and Hanover Street. GPS address: 1 Maryland Ave., Annapolis, 21401.

Gate 8: Access to this gate is at Bowyer Road off Route 450 near the Naval Academy bridge. GPS address: 675 Decatur Rd., Annapolis, 21402.

Directions to Stadium: Take U.S. 50 to exit 24 ( Rowe Boulevard) and turn right at first light onto Farragut Road.

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