Re-enactors at Fort McHenry

Re-enactors at Fort McHenry (Fort McHenry National Monument and Historic Shrine, handout / September 1, 2004)

Baltimore went a little War-of-1812-crazy last year, when some 1.5 million people crowded into the Inner Harbor to celebrate the bicentennial of the last time Great Britain invaded the U.S. And things should get even crazier next year, when Charm City fetes the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Baltimore and its most enduring legacy, "The Star-Spangled Banner."

So where does that leave 2013?

Just fine, thanks to the folks at Fort McHenry and the Maryland Historical Society. They've run with the inspired idea to reproduce the flag that survived the British bombardment celebrated in Francis Scott Key's famous poem.

That huge banner is the centerpiece of this year's Defenders' Day celebrations, as Baltimoreans continue to celebrate the happy confluence of a Baltimore seamstress (Mary Pickersgill, who created the original flag), a Frederick lawyer (Key, who wrote the poem that would become "The Star-Spangled Banner"), a British drinking song ("To Anacreon in Heaven," the tune of which was applied to Key's poem) and some unfriendly pyrotechnics courtesy of the invading British navy.

"This is a big deal," said historical society President Burt Kummerow, justly proud of the flag that will be raised over Fort McHenry for the first time Saturday. "This is the first time anyone has gone to the trouble we went to, to get it as accurate as we could."

Adds Vince Vaise, Fort McHenry's chief of interpretation, "We're upping our game this year. This will be a pretty awesome prequel for 2014."

Here are the five main components of this weekend's Defenders' Day celebrations:

Friday, 1:30 p.m.: The new "Star-Spangled Banner" is unveiled and begins its journey to Fort McHenry

Since July 4, more than 1,000 volunteers have been stitching away at the Maryland Historical Society, re-creating the 30-by-42-foot flag that flew over Fort McHenry 199 years ago. At 1:30 p.m., the finished flag, containing some 150,000 stitches, will be unveiled in the historical society courtyard; the U.S. Army Old Guard Color Guard will then fold the flag and prepare it for the 3.6 mile journey to Fort McHenry.

"This will be the first chance for the public to see the flag in all its glory," Kummerow said of the giant flag, which weighs in at 42 pounds. "It's a lot of cloth."

Planners originally had ideas of staging an elaborate procession through downtown, Kummerow said, but had to accede to the realities of rush hour in Charm City. "Stopping traffic in Baltimore is just not a good idea," he said.

Thus, a much quieter journey to Federal Hill. The trip will include a 4 p.m. wreath-laying at the Battle Monument, erected on Calvert Street to commemorate the Battle of Baltimore — an assault that included the Fort McHenry bombardment that so moved Key.

Friday, 5:45 p.m.: The flag is carried via parade from Federal Hill to Fort McHenry

Back in 1814, cannon atop Federal Hill warned Baltimore of the arrival of the British fleet. This year, in a far more celebratory mode, a few score living historians and the Fort McHenry Guard will shoot off cannon to announce the giant replica flag's arrival, followed by a flag-raising ceremony (not the replica flag, which will remain folded during its visit) and other activities, including wreath-layings at monuments to Gen. Sam Smith and Maj. George Armistead, key leaders in the defense of Baltimore.

Following the ceremony, some 100 people, including re-enactors and many of the people who actually worked on the replica flag, will lead a procession down Riverside Avenue to Riverside Park, where a short fife-and-drum concert will commemorate what used to be known as Fort Look-out, an earthen redoubt built as a defense of Fort McHenry

Beginning at 7 p.m., the parade will pick up on Hull Street and proceed down Fort Avenue and on to Fort McHenry.

Friday-Sunday: The new Fort McHenry quarter is unveiled at the fort

This newest entry in the U.S. Mint's "Beautiful Quarters" program depicts the famous glaring red rockets as they burst over the fort. The coin will make its official debut in a ceremony at 10 a.m. Friday. If you're 18 or younger, lucky you — you get a free quarter, just for showing up. The rest of us, however, will have to settle for exchanging our standard U.S. currency for the quarters, which will be available in rolls of 40. The coins will be available through the weekend, or as long as supplies last.

"The defense of Fort McHenry was a watershed event in the War of 1812," said Tom Jurkowsky, the mint's director of public affairs, "and this new quarter captures the significance of that victory."

Saturday-Sunday, 8 a.m.-4 p.m.: Living history demonstrations at Fort McHenry