Buffalo's celebration of Navy Week in commemoration of the War of 1812 ended Sunday - appropriately, at the twilight's last gleaming.
That's when 20 uniformed cadets from the Western New York Maritime Charter School marched through the Buffalo & Erie County Naval and Military Park with red torchlights reminiscent of rockets' red glare, and an audience of about 300 people joined in singing of the U.S. and Canadian national anthems.
A 15-star American flag of the 1812 era formed the backdrop for the patriotic closing ceremony of the Navy Week program that had opened to the public last Wednesday. Re-enactors portraying then-President James Madison and his wife, Dolley, were there, too, to complete the theme, dubbed "A Star-Spangled Celebration."
Sunday's twilight program was billed as "the grand finale of Buffalo Navy Week - a bicentennial gala."
Joseph P. Brennan, a member of the board of the Naval and Military Park and a co-chairman of Sunday's gala, said: "This is a celebration to say thank-you to everyone who participated in Navy Week and to raise money to support the Naval and Military Park."
Brennan estimated that more than 50,000 people visited the various ships and displays at the park during Navy Week.
"These are the first U.S. Navy warships to visit the Great Lakes since 1999, when there was a similar celebration" of peace along the lakes between the U.S. and Canada.
He noted that peace between the two countries has endured for two centuries since the last military engagements on the Great Lakes.
Supporters attending Sunday evening's gala paid $75 each, or $125 a couple, to sip cocktails, sample hors d'oeuvres, enjoy the music of several military performers and say goodbye to the visiting ships and their crews for at least another year. A spokeswoman for Anthony N. Diina, vice chairman of the park's board, said that this year's program was the first of its kind here but that preliminary talks are under way for some sort of repeat performance next year.
Sailors of all ranks, resplendent in their dress-white uniforms, mingled with the guests and with the maritime cadets in a party atmosphere
The observance began last Wednesday with a flotilla to welcome members of the U.S. and Canadian navies to Western New York.