Should Air Show Continue Without Top Tier Act?

Should Air Show Continue Without Top Tier Act?

The future of the OC Air Show appears a little in doubt today, as there’s uncertainty about the 2011 event’s date as well as what act, if any, will headline the event.

The newly formed Tourism Advisory Board will surely iron out the date debate after it was remanded to the body by the council to get the business community’s sentiment on whether it should continue to be held the first weekend in June or be bumped to its original place on the calendar, the second weekend of the month.

No matter how that issue gets resolved, the event’s date is not going to make or break its success. What will is the fact the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds will not be available for the 2011 event.

That lack of a top jet team headliner, such as the Thunderbirds or the U.S. Navy Blue Angels, is the biggest news coming out of this week’s meeting. That’s devastating for this fledgling event, which needs to have a top-tier draw to continue to interest the masses.

The lower level acts are surely entertaining, but all would agree it’s the Thunderbirds the last two years that have made the event the talk of the town in early June. That jet team’s dazzling show has made the event. Without it, or a similar act, we question whether it should be held at all.

An argument could be made this news could be turned into a positive, allowing for event organizers to bring other well-known teams to the area that had previously gone elsewhere, but it will not be the same. The event organizer said this week he is trying to land the U.S. Marines’ Harrier demonstration team or the Air Force’s F-22 Raptor demonstration team, but whether one or both are available for June of 2011 will not be known for a couple months at the earliest. Either way, neither will create the stir of the Thunderbirds or Blue Angels, hurting the event’s popularity.

The success of the event as far as the trickle down to the town’s business community has long been debated. Many businesses are not impacted at all by this event, while some in the vicinity of its headquarters on the Boardwalk reap the benefits of it. Lessening its overall impact further without a headline event will have considerable financial implications.

Local businesses donate thousands of dollars of in-kind services to the event each year, such as free hotel rooms, gym workout sessions, dinners and more. It’s a tremendous burden put on the businesses each year, and that needs to be considered as well.

Without the Thunderbirds, the event will not draw the same amount of people. That’s a fact and the city will have to scale back its public contributions to the event because less money will be needed to run it.

Let’s remember public funding ($50,000 at last glance plus other in-kind personnel services) is involved in the event, and that should not continue as the 2011 event is shaping up today. Clearly, the same level of funding should not be provided if the entire event will be altered and downsized, as would be the case without a top drawing act.

That conversation needs to be paramount and held before the date discussion, or at a minimum at the same time. A good starting point would be the newly formed private tourism board.

At this point, and unless there’s a serious change in the event’s lineup of acts, we think a year off may be a wise course. It will allow for the opportunity to see what kind of impact its absence has on the resort and to give it a fresh look when it returns from a year hiatus.

About The Author: Steven Green

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The writer has been with The Dispatch in various capacities since 1995, including serving as editor and publisher since 2004. His previous titles were managing editor, staff writer, sports editor, sales account manager and copy editor. Growing up in Salisbury before moving to Berlin, Green graduated from Worcester Preparatory School in 1993 and graduated from Loyola University Baltimore in 1997 with degrees in Communications (journalism concentration) and Political Science.