Airshow Attendance Spikes This Summer

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The Arlington Fly-In held last weekend in Washington state reported a 14-percent jump in attendance over last year, and it is just the latest big show to report strong numbers. "What can I say, it was great -- a phenomenal turnout this year," said Barb Tolbert, executive director for the Arlington event. "We are still verifying the number of aircraft -- at times the registrations even overloaded our system -- but it looks to be well ahead of last year." Other shows around the country are showing similarly strong numbers, according to the International Council of Air Shows. Many are reporting all-time record attendance. "Every week, we hear from more shows who have been challenged to deal with overflowing crowds and also from performers who have never seen such large crowds at specific venues," said John Cudahy, ICAS president. "At this point, we're thinking we'll have an overall increase approaching 20 percent compared to last year."

The recent Rhode Island Air National Guard airshow in North Kingstown, R.I., featuring the Blue Angels, Canada's Snowbirds, Sean Tucker and Mike Goulian, drew over 70,000 people. "This was our largest show in the 18-year history of the event," said Col. Larry Gallogly, one of the show organizers. "We used every parking spot available to us and put more spectators on the ramp than we ever have before." Cudahy says the economy seems to be boosting the appeal of the shows, especially when compared with other options for family entertainment. "What's great about an airshow is that a family of four would be hard-pressed to spend anything more than $50 or $60, whereas they're easily dropping three or four times that amount at an amusement park or a professional baseball game," he said. "And they're getting a product that the kids will remember forever. It only makes sense that airshows would see an attendance surge in a bad economy, but this defies even our most optimistic projections."