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Fort McHenry Enjoys Attendance Boost

BALTIMORE (WJZ) -- It's shaping up to be a banner year for the home of the Star-Spangled Banner.

Alex DeMetrick reports the bicentennial of the War of 1812 is giving a big boost to park attendance.

When the replica of the Star-Spangled Banner isn't flying over Fort McHenry, it's used as a hands-on history lesson for park visitors.

"As the British were sailing away, having been defeated, they raised the original of this flag over the ramparts of the fort," said U.S. Park Service Ranger Jim Bailey.

That original flew in 1813. The war with England started in 1812, a bicentennial that brought tall ships from around the world to Baltimore for a Sailabration in June. That also drew massive crowds to the Inner Harbor, while air shows from the Blue Angels brought 30,000 spectators a day to Fort McHenry. Even without ships and jets, they're still coming.

"Monday, Tuesday would slow down but then you'd see a big surge on the weekends. But in the last six to eight months, every day from 8 o'clock to 8 o'clock, it's big," Bailey said.

So far this year, there have been nearly 400,000 park visitors--an increase of almost 100,000 over the same period last year. That's a 27.5 percent boost.

"That was cool. Too bad we couldn't have been here in June," said Jessica Baker, a tourist from Texas.

The fort is holding its own for other reasons.

"My nephews. I wanted to give them a little history and show them some of Baltimore," said Michelle Lavoi.

"We've never been up here to Fort McHenry and so this was special today to see the fort," said Clark Waggoner.

Rangers are also noticing an interesting change in destination priorities.

"It used to be they'd go to D.C. and then come up to see Fort McHenry. Talking with visitors now, they're coming to Baltimore, seeing the fort and then going down to D.C. as the day trip and that's been fun to see," Bailey said.

Keeping attention on the bicentennial is the goal right up to 2014, when another massive celebration is planned in Baltimore and Fort McHenry.

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