|AirFEST fans keeps an eye to the sky|
|Written by Dennis HInes/Stateline News|
|Thursday, 08 September 2011 15:35|
Skip Stewart flies his airplane sideways to cut a ribbon that people on the ground are holding
during the 2010 run of Southern Wisconsin AirFEST. Stewart returns to AirFEST for 2011. Terry Mayer/staff photo
(Read the story in the e-edition HERE.)
JANESVILLE — While spectacular displays of aerobatics will fill the skies over Rock County this coming weekend, the sounds of music will fill the grounds of the 10th annual ABC Supply Co. Inc. Southern Wisconsin AirFEST.
This year’s show will be held Friday through Sept. 11 at the Southern Wisconsin Regional Airport, located on U.S. Highway 51 between Janesville and Beloit. Some of the acts that will be performing at this year’s air festival include the U.S. Navy F/A-18 Hornet Demo Team, L-29 Close Air Support Jet Demo Team, Skip Stewart, Super Shockwave Jet Truck, Lima Lima Flight Team, Susan Dacy with “Big Red,” Gary Ward, Gene Soucy and Julie Clark’s American Aerobatics.
AirFEST also will feature a performance from country music artist Aaron Tippin, who is scheduled to take the stage at 4 p.m. Saturday (Sept. 10). Tom Morgan, AirFEST executive director, said this is the first year that a musical act has been featured as part of the event.
“We don’t have the (Brazilian Air Force) jet team, and we’ve been fortunate enough to get a jet team the past few years,” Morgan said. “So it’s really an effort to add to the attraction and add to the event.”
The Sept. 11 show will include a memorial to the 10-year anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. Gates will open at 9 a.m., and a parade will be held at 11:30 a.m. An air show will then be held after the parade.
AirFEST originally was set to be held July 29 through July 31, but was rescheduled because the Brazilian Air Force’s Smoke Squadron had to cancel. Morgan said those dates also conflicted with the Rock County 4-H Fair and the EAA AirVenture.
“We were scheduled to be the same weekend as Oshkosh, then the same weekend as the county fair. We didn’t want to interfere with the county fair,” Morgan said. “With the jet team, we would’ve had a good draw. Without them, we decided to push it back to September.”
Morgan said AirFEST usually is scheduled based on when major acts are available to perform.
“If we get one of the major jet teams like the Thunderbirds, the Blue Angels or the Canadian Snowbirds, like we’ve been able to do, they often have a predetermined date that they want to come here, because they build around 12 or 15 shows that they’re absolutely going to that relate to huge cities like Chicago, San Francisco and Cleveland, places that have air shows that draw half a million to a couple million people.
“We’re a small city, but they like to come to our show, because we have a great reputation,” Morgan said. “However, we often don’t have a big enough population to tell them what date we want to have them. We work with them, and they let us know when they’re available, so that causes some date changes.”
Officials from AirFEST work on the event for about six months, contacting performers and meeting with local police and fire departments and emergency management agencies.
“A lot of work goes into it,” said Janna Drew of AirFEST. “Not only do we contact performers, we have to provide for their needs. It’s more than the flying aspect.”
The proceeds from AirFEST are donated to local organizations and the Wisconsin Aviation Academy.
“Originally, it started as a fundraiser for the Wisconsin Aviation Academy, which is a nonprofit organization that teaches high school students how to fly an aircraft,” Drew said. “It’s grown considerably. Money has benefited other organizations, as well.”
Morgan said he is pleased with the number of organizations that have benefited from the AirFEST during the past 10 years.
“Last year, we gave money to 18 nonprofits,” Morgan said. “It was about $103,000. The year before, it was about $105,000.”
Morgan said AirFEST is well attended each year. About 40,000 people attended last year’s event, held over Memorial Day weekend.
Besides the performers, the event also includes food booths, aircraft displays and a beer garden. Morgan said the event attracts people of all ages.
“It’s gotten to the point where it’s consistently looked forward to by both the local community and people in the regional area of Wisconsin, Illinois and Iowa ...,” Morgan said. “It’s family friendly, and it’s patriotic, and it’s action packed. Anyone from the ages of 5 (to) 85 will enjoy it.”
Morgan said he enjoys being at the airport during the days of AirFest.
“It’s a lot different tempo. Normal days, it’s kind of a nice casual pace (at the airport),” Morgan said. “(During AirFEST), it’s a lot of activity. There’s plenty to see and do.”
|Last Updated on Thursday, 08 September 2011 15:45|