|AirFEST with Eric and Lynn|
|Written by Lynn Vollbrecht and Eric Steurer|
|Tuesday, 02 June 2009 12:38|
Photography by Lynn Vollbrecht (1-5), Eric Steurer (6-10)
Record crowds looked to the sky with wide smiles over the weekend at the 2009 ABC Supply Co. Southern Wisconsin AirFEST.
The Blue Angels last performed at AirFEST in 2005; attendance that year was 40,000.
Morgan said that, other than a minor maintenance issue with one of the Blue Angels’ F/A-18 Hornets on Sunday, the performances went smoothly. One of the jets had to land midshow, but the Angels used a spare plane to finish the show.
The crowd size made parking and getting people through the gates more difficult than expected, he said. At times, people had to wait 15 to 20 minutes to park and get into the show.
“It was hard to get everybody in,” Morgan said. “We had a little difficulty with that.”
Shuttling more people from off-site parking at Blackhawk Technical College and the former LSI building is something officials will consider, Morgan said.
“I think we’re going to expand and look more at the shuttle for next year,” Morgan said.
Area hotels and businesses also benefited from the influx of people, he said.
“It definitely impacted the economy,” Morgan said.
Christine Rebout, executive director for the Janesville Area Convention and Visitors Bureau, agreed.
Based on tourist families spending about $50 per day, Rebout said the show likely generated about $3 million for the area.
“Obviously, the event went very well with the huge crowds and nice weather,” she said. “One of the nice things about having this event early in the year is that it gives people that haven't been to the area a chance to travel back to the area later in the year.
“We’re hoping a very early and very successful show will give people a reason to travel back.”
Bureau officials are still gathering results from a survey of air-show spectators that asked where they came from, how much money they spent and other questions related to visiting the area.
While the Blue Angels headlined the show, there were plenty of other attractions — one from a little closer to home. Along with two partners, Ted Davis of Brodhead gave AirFEST spectators the ride of a lifetime in his open-air White New Standard D-25 biplane.
Frank Murry of Beloit took advantage of the opportunity.
“It was great,” Murry said after his flight. “I’ve been on an airliner before, but not anything like that.”
Davis, a former General Motors employee, rebuilds airplanes for a living. He’s been flying for more than 30 years, and has been an airplane enthusiast for much longer.
“Actually, when I was a kid in Brodhead ... a guy from Beloit moved to Brodhead. He worked on airplanes in his garage,” Davis said.
From that point, he was hooked. Davis spent 15 months restoring his biplane, which, he said, is one of only eight in the world still flying.
“From (19)49 till last June, it was pretty much dormant,” he said.
Now, he and his partners take the plane to various events, where they offer rides.
“It’s just an awesome airplane to fly,” Davis said. “It’s great to be at AirFEST with it, and share the experience with people who don’t get a chance to do anything like this.”
The show, which featured a number of aerobatic standouts, including the Air Force’s F-16 Viper East Demonstration Team, a World War II-era P-51D Mustang and the Army’s Golden Knights Parachute Team, didn’t disappoint returning visitors or first-time spectators.
“This was my first year attending AirFEST,” said Amy Dhom of Janesville. “The Blue Angels were amazing. It was a spectacular display of artistry, showmanship and talent. It was a great event.”
Now that the show is over, Morgan said he will use the experience to help plan for future AirFEST shows.
“We’ll rest and regroup and fix things that need fixing,” he said.
|Last Updated on Thursday, 04 June 2009 08:23|