Fort! Flag! Fire! is about to begin at Fort McHenry! This series of programs is an explosive bicentennial birthday celebration for our National Anthem. An important occasion deserves a big bang and the Fort McHenry artillery has that covered.

Many of the Fort! Flag! Fire! programs were coordinated by Vince Vaise, a park Ranger from Linthicum. Vaise has loved Fort McHenry since he was a child. He first visited at age six, riding on his Dad’s shoulders.

From talking to uniformed soldiers manning the ramparts, to raising the huge flag, to trying on period costumes and firing fort artillery, this series of programs will get children excited about Baltimore’s past.“My favorite part was exploring. Then at home I dug a fort in the dirt and sailed blocks of wood for ships around it,” Vaise said. Helping children learn to love hands-on history is a major inspiration for him.

“Visitors want to see action. They want to make a visceral connection with all of their senses,” says Vaise.

Fort! Flag! Fire! is definitely a multi-sensory learning experience. The tangible nature of living history helps children connect the one-dimensional words in a history book to the real people who lived through momentous events. From talking to uniformed soldiers manning the ramparts, to raising the huge flag, to trying on period costumes and firing fort artillery, this series of programs will get children excited about Baltimore’s past.

The Fort McHenry Guard brings the Battle of Baltimore to life. Dressed as citizens, soldiers, and sailors from 1814, the Guard will give cooking demonstrations, fire the cannons, and much more. The fife and drum corps will play original pieces from the time while visitors discover how music was an inspiration and useful time-marking device. Learn how the average citizen contributed to the defense of Baltimore during “Citizens Stand” while the “Young Defenders” drill with wooden muskets, stitch a flag, and write with quill and ink.

Fort! Flag! Fire! has a calendar of weekly Ranger-led programs that are available seven days a week. Visitors can begin their day by raising the huge 30×42 foot Star Spangled Banner. Hear the story of the Battle of Baltimore and participate by actively moving the troops and ships on a map. Become a militia soldier and join the gun crew at Fort McHenry to defend Baltimore from the British!

History’s “Wildcard Weekends” bring out the big stars. On Saturdays and Sundays, park goers will have anopportunity to meet some of the most famous personalities from 1814. These stars include Mary Pickersgill, who sewed the flag; Major George Armistead, Commander of Fort McHenry during the Battle of Baltimore; and Francis Scott Key, among others.

Man the ramparts and hoist America’s colors high starting June 28, 2014. The exciting programs, concerts, and activities will run until September 1. For more information and specific program times please visit

fort! flag! fire! at fort mchenry

2400 E Fort Ave
Baltimore, MD 21230
Summer Hours: Park: 9 a.m. – 6 p.m.; Star Fort: 9 a.m. – 5:45 p.m.; Visitor Center: 9 a.m. – 5:45 p.m.

Ranger Programs (seven days a week)

10:15 a.m. – “Hoist the Colors! Flag-Raising at Fort McHenry”

Visitors join the park ranger to help raise the grand 30 x 42-foot Star-Spangled Banner flag over the ramparts of the historic fort.

11:15 a.m. and 3:15 p.m. – The “Keynote” Story!

Learn the story of Francis Scott Key seeing the Star-Spangled Banner “by dawn’s early light.” In this interactive program, visitors move model ships, figures of British soldiers and small flags as the ranger tells the story of the events leading up to the writing of our national anthem.

12:15 p.m., 1:15 p.m., 4:15 p.m. – “Broad Stripes and Bright Stars!”

In this hands-on ranger talk, visitors unroll the full-sized replica Star-Spangled Banner flag. Experience 30-by-42- feet of “pure awesome” by unrolling the large flag on the exact site where it flew in 1814.

2:15 p.m. “The Battle of Baltimore and Birth of the Anthem”

Discover what it was like to be a defender at the fort in 1814 by becoming a member of the gun crew. Visitors will learn why the British wanted to take Baltimore and then will be “drafted” into the militia. The talk concludes with visitors standing on the fort’s gun deck looking downriver at the location of Key’s ship and the British fleet.

2:15 p.m. History’s “Wildcard Weekend!” (Saturdays and Sundays only)

In history’s “wildcards” of the famous and infamous, visitors may meet one of the well-known characters from 1814. This grab-bag of history includes: Francis Scott Key; Mary Pickersgill, who made the large flag; Major George Armistead, who commanded Fort McHenry; a British soldier from the 4th Regiment of Foot; and even Dr. William Beanes, who was indirectly responsible for Francis Scott Key writing “The Star-Spangled Banner.”

5:15 p.m. “Lower the Colors”

The American flag flies 24 hours a day by Presidential proclamation at Fort McHenry. Join the ranger for a flag change as the 1814-style American flag is changed to the modern one. “Taps” is ceremoniously played at the conclusion of the program.

Living History Programs

(these programs are in addition to the everyday Ranger Programs; Wednesday through Sunday only)

Fort McHenry literally explodes with activity Wednesdays through Sundays with living history presentations by the Fort McHenry Guard. Dressed as soldiers, sailors and citizens from 1814, Guard members provide a touchstone to the past by garrisoning the fort. Cannon-firing, fife and drum concerts, cooking demonstrations and children’s activities offer visitors a “total immersion” experience. Smell the gunpowder, see the stars and stripes, hear the fifes and drums and feel the presence of history!

11 a.m. and 2 p.m. “A Blast from the Past!”

Soldiers and sailors muster on the gun deck to load and fire the fort’s great guns. Learn why the British ships turned and sailed away the morning after the battle, and see the cannon-crew in action. If you like smoke and noise, this demonstration is for you!

Noon and 3 p.m. “Fun and Fury with Fife and Drum!”

Hear the thunderous beat of the drums and the shrill fifes of Fort McHenry’s nationally recognized fife and drum corps. Dressed in their hallmark red uniforms of U.S. field music, the fifes and drums play original pieces from 1814. Hear about how music inspired the troops, regulated the duty day and reflected the diversity of the young United States.

1 p.m. to 4 p.m. – “Citizens Stand!” and “Young Defenders!”

Discover how average Baltimoreans contributed to the city’s defense from the British in “Citizens Stand!” At this station, visitors will learn about flag-making, fashions from 1814, historic cooking and life on the home front. Located near the Citizens Stand tent, “Young Defenders” presents children’s activities. At this station, the young and young at heart can drill with wooden muskets, help stitch a flag, engage in cutlass drill, try on a replica historic outfit or write a letter using the same types of quill and ink Francis Scott Key used when he wrote “The Star-Spangled Banner.”