Sun ‘n Fun 2021: Fewer Exhibitors and Attendees, But Ready With COVID-19 Precautions


Sun ‘n Fun 2021 will launch in five weeks and although the show will have fewer exhibitors and slightly restricted attendance, organizers have taken extraordinary steps to mitigate COVID-19 risks. “Everybody’s health and well-being is our number one priority,” Sun ‘n Fun President Lites Leenhouts told us in this video interview recorded this week. “Obviously, we want to do the fly-in, but we gotta do it smart and we gotta do it safe,” he added.

Crowd and exhibitor wise, Leenhouts said the show will look more like those of the early 2000s, before the current management grew attendance. “Our attendance is going to be down a little bit from the last five or six years. Our advance ticket sales are on par with 2020 before the COVID hit,” he said. But organizers are planning for smaller crowds.

In recent years, Sun ‘n Fun has had about 500 exhibitors, but this year expects about 390. “Exhibitors want to be here. But some of the bigger companies’ policies don’t allow travel yet. We expected a 25 percent drop, but we’re really holding a little bit better than that,” Leenhouts said. Plans for forums and workshop are still in flux but participation will be reduced because participants will be more spread out. Evening programs are not planned as a COVID-19 precaution.

Neither Florida nor Polk County have mask requirements in place but Sun ‘n Fun has instituted its own. Masks will be required to enter the grounds and in any of the exhibitor hangars. “When you go into the exhibit halls, most of the exhibitors want you to wear a mask when you’re conversing with them about their products,” Leenhouts told us. “We’re not going to have the mask police going around throwing people out if they don’t have it on. We will be asking you to wear it appropriately. We’re all adults. We all want to enjoy this event. The only way it’s going to work is if we all follow the policy,” he said. When outside and away from others and in the food courts, masks won’t be required.

High-contact areas will be sanitized frequently, including portable toilets. Masks and hand sanitizer will be widely available for those who want them, Leenhouts told us. The show is considering hiring a company to do additional cleaning as needed.

Attendance will be limited at the gate to no more than 30,000 a day. But Leenhouts doubts Sun ‘n Fun will have to throttle the inflow. “Quite candidly, as much as I would love to envision this giant mass of humanity coming out for our event, it’s not going to happen. We know that. Let’s face it, the economy has taken a hit. There are people out of work, there are companies that have closed up. Aviation is a hobby and most people look at it as a luxury,” Leenhouts said.

The show runs from April 13 through April 18. For additional information, see the event website.

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  1. “We’re all Adults. We all want to enjoy this event. The only way it’s going to work is if we all follow the policy.”

    An interesting, and timely, remark in view of the discussion this week on your editorial about Zero Tolerance for airline travel. I can’t make Sun ‘n Fun this year, but have several friends who plan to attend. I will be interested in hearing their post mortem following the show.

  2. WOW, John Mc, such a fatalist. Post Mortem for attending a 95 percent outside event in the Florida sunshine. If COVID 19 were really as bad as they have pushed for the last year, then why are they counting car accidents, workplace accidents, and other major health deaths as COVID19? Wouldn’t we need the latest and best stats to know exactly what we are fighting and how? Sunshine does kill the virus very quickly, that is from Epidemiologists. Also the latest headline today was that with the vaccine and herd immunity it will be just a common cold by late summer at the latest.

    Makes you wonder what to believe……..I’m going to Sun n Fun.

    • “WOW, John Mc, such a fatalist. Post Mortem for attending a 95 percent outside event in the Florida sunshine.”

      I believe that you are taking that term a little too literally. You do realize that, don’t you? Or are you looking for something to be pissed about?

  3. Here he is folks Roger M, smarter than everyone. Must be a scientist or virologist! He knows more about this virus than anyone in the world and he’s not afraid to tell everyone about it. Even though he’s still using the year old talking points. If 500 thousand dead Americans (or any number) is not enough for Roger to stand down from his mission of proving to everyone that’s its just like the flu, what number would be enough Roger?

    I hope to be at SNF this year but I’ll make sure to stay clear of Roger and anyone like him that can’t go along with some truly simple rules / procedures designed to allow the show to happen, keep people safe and keep it fun and enjoyable.

    • Sorry, sure didn’t mean to offend. I fly also and that is a statistically unsafe thing to do, but I like it. I also love walking the grounds at Sun n fun, have for over 25 years. I still plan to go and be safe.

      • No offense taken. Perhaps I should have used “mission debrief” instead of post mortem for my after show discussion with friends. I just found it ironic that the leader of Sun ‘n Fun hopes we will all act as adults in the same week as the kerfuffle over airline masking has demonstrated there are very few adults occupying airline seats these days.

        Actually, I sincerely hope that SnF goes off well and all attendees stay safe and enjoy the show. I would like to attend, as I am fully vaccinated, but there are prior commitments preventing my attendance. God willing, I will definitely be back next year. Enjoy the show.

  4. As soon as I discovered that the top priority of the S&F leadership was masks (outdoors, no less) instead of the revitalization of aviation, I knew how misguided this effort was and was going to be. Masks are to Covid as garlic is to vampires.

    • Never having encountered any vampires, I will defer to your superior knowledge on dealing with the little blood suckers. However, I have to differ with your analysis of mask efficacy in dealing with the Covid pandemic. Multiple scientific studies from American and international organizations have statistically proven that masks are effective at lessening the spread of the virus among the general population. HOWEVER, masks will not completely prevent the spread, and the studies all include the caveat that mask use is only effective when widely used in the population along with other measures such as distancing, hand washing, etc. Remember that wearing a mask will not prevent you from catching the virus. It is intended to keep an infected person from spreading it to you. A surgeon does not wear a mask while performing surgery to protect himself from catching your germs. He wears it so he doesn’t spread his germs to the patient.

  5. I’ve supported SnF with a 1000+ hours of volunteer service. But this year I’m opting out. The keys to controlling this pandemic and its tremendous burdens on our society are poorly understood and generally not accepted by by the general public. SnF leadership, volunteers, contractors, and attendees are simply not going to confirm to the procedures irrespective of their good intentions. In a perfect pandemic control effort, all show principals (staff, volunteers, vendors performers, airport employees, emergency responders, etc) would be systematically tested before and during the show. Attendees would be screened for elevated temperatures and symptoms at the gates. Social distancing and masks would be mandatory every where possible Obviously this level of effort is economically and practically, impossible. And as importantly, unacceptable to those involved. So the show will most likely go on. And the Covid virus will strictly adhere to the laws of nature. To my great regret, without me again this year.