It was a good news, bad news deal for the OC Air Show this week.
First, the event date change from mid-June to late-August is a major negative. The event will not be as successful and well received late in the season as it has been held in June for every year except 2020. The 2024 air show will likely be held the same week as the annual Jeep event, raising some logistical concerns with the daily beach parades, although the “Jeeps and Jets” marketing opportunity exists.
For Ocean City area businesses, it’s a blow because their employment situation is in flux in late August. College students will have left the beach for their schools by the end of August, resulting in staffing challenges typically. The air show is a major help in June, and it carries a major economic impact for the downtown area. It’s a weekend many circle and get excited about each summer.
Second, the fact the event will not have one of the two major armed forces demonstration teams in the lineup is significant. The event needs either the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds or the U.S. Navy Blue Angels to headline for it to be successful and continue to be a draw. While the other acts in the lineup bring excitement, it’s these jet demonstration teams that bring the sizzle to the event each year. Ocean City officials have acknowledged this in the past.
Due to their schedules being posted two years out, it’s been known for a while neither the Thunderbirds or the Blue Angels would be featured in 2024. Along with their precision flying and impressive maneuvering, these teams boost patriotism and American pride. When the air show coincides with Father’s Day, that Sunday on the beach is special for everyone in attendance.
With “challenges out of our control,” as city officials maintained this week, the event will move forward without those teams and the new date. Both are significant changes, tolerable only if it’s for one year. Some excitement can be generated by the announcement of the Italian Air Force Frecce Tricolori team being booked for 2024. While it doesn’t carry the same patriotic feel of our own country’s military performing, the Italian acrobat team features 10 Aermacchi MB339 jets flying in three types of shows dependent on weather – low, flat and full. Other civilian acts and a couple U.S. military jets are expected to round out the 2024 lineup.
Looking ahead, the good news for Air Show enthusiasts is the 2025 event will feature the return of the U.S. Navy Blue Angels for the first time since 2017. This is a significant development, and the timing of the announcement dims the significance of the 2024 event’s unfortunate news.
While Ocean City tourism officials did their best to be optimistic about the event date change and the plan to introduce new events in June to lessen the loss of the air show, the fact is the air show date change is major. It’s acceptable for the air show to be rescheduled for one year, but it cannot be permanent.