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July 12, 2013

Rockport set to host Navy weekend

ROCKPORT — The Navy is once again landing in Rockport.

Celebrating a history between Rockport residents and that branch of the service, the annual Rockport Naval weekend starts today and there is plenty to do.

The modern festivities began in 2007, but the relationship between the navy and Rockport began much earlier.

Rockport was on the list of places visited by The Great White Fleet in the early 1900s, when the fleet was circumnavigating the globe at the time, said retired Rockport Police officer Roger Lesch, who is among the Navy weekend coordinators. Then, more ships visited again after World War II, with residents getting the chance to tour the ships that visited Rockport’s harbor — and Lesch was one of them.

Lesch, who later joined the Navy in the 1960s, said he fondly remembered details of the armed forces visit, they had given out sugar cookies.

“You remember things like that,” he said.

Lesch now co-chairs the Rockport Navy Committee along with Sharon Grandmaison, and is looking forward to this years festivities.

Due to security, deployment and other issues, larger ships have not visited Rockport in recent years, but Lesch said he still remembers when they came to town.

“You get that smell of what a Navy ship smells like,” he said, Lesch had been deployed on an Navy oiler. “Even Boston has a hard time getting ships.”

One of the events that is planned over weekend, however, is the annual kickball game with Rockport children and midshipmen on Evans Field. Even the field itself has historical significance tied to the navy.

In 1928, Visery Evans bequeathed the field to the town in her will. Part of the will states “It is my desire the town permit the soldiers and sailors of the United States to have the use of this field without charge, whenever the ships of the United States Navy are in our harbor,” according to a document from the Sandy Bay Historical Society.

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