Get ready for one hot August weekend


Airshow of the Cascades set for Aug. 23-24

by: PHOTO BY TOM BROWN - Dan Buchanan, a paraplegic pilot, does an array of aerobatics. Buchanan, who brought his 'glider on fire' performance to the 2009 show, will be back for this year's event.If it's late August in Madras, you can bet the community's already in high gear for the Airshow of the Cascades — Jefferson County's signature event, which will be held Aug. 23 and 24 at the Madras Municipal Airport.

More than 100 local residents will be busy preparing for the action-packed event, which relies entirely on volunteers to book and arrange accommodations for aerial acts, contact and sign contracts with vendors, set up facilities for the pilots, sponsors and attendees, and handle the gate and parking — not to mention take everything down afterward.

Because it takes so much time to organize such a large event, the Airshow of the Cascades Board of Directors typically starts holding monthly meetings with the planning committee in January to divide the massive effort into manageable chunks, according to Mack Gardner, chairman of the 2013 air show. "Then we press forward with our slice of the pie. If there's a problem or issue, we fix it."

Gardner, a retired U.S. Army aviator, got involved several years ago, when the air show committee asked him to help with the military static aircraft displays and performances. He switched from spectator to organizer, and joined the legion of volunteers.

"The air show has no paid staff, and is organized, planned and executed by volunteers," said Gardner. "We have people in civic groups who do everything from the Elks Pancake Breakfast to the Rotary Ball Drop to Buff Boosters selling air show T-shirts and sweatshirts."

The family-oriented event opens to the public at 4 p.m. Friday, Aug. 23. The cost of the show is $10 per person, or $15 for a two-day ticket; children 12 and under get in free.

"We have children's tickets, sponsored by St. Charles Madras, that allow an adult who brings a child under 12 to get in free, also," said Gardner. "So a mom and a dad with two kids under 12 can all get in free with these tickets."

Thanks to title sponsor Budweiser and Morgan Distributing, veterans get in free. Other major sponsors include the city of Madras, Jefferson County and Portland General Electric.

Sponsorships range from the pilot level of $100, which gets a donor two tickets and access to the pilot's hospitality tent, run by volunteer Melanie Widmer (who is also Madras' mayor), up to the title level sponsorship of $10,000, which gets a donor 24 passes, access to the VIP Chalet, run by Pat Abernathy, and a slew of other perks.

"The VIP Chalet is up on the flight line," said Gardner, pointing out that besides getting a front-row seat to the show, VIPs get a wide variety of food and drinks. "It's a full tent, with nobody in front of them."

The pilot's tent, located near the north hangar, gives pilots, donors and others a place to sit down for free drinks and snacks while they relax and stay out of the sun.

Gardner estimates that the cost of the air show will run about $80,000, so all donations are important. “Businesses and individuals that are primarily local or have involvement in Jefferson County, these are our $25 to $1,000 donors/sponsors, who are absolutely essential to making sure this air show happens.”

by: HOLLY M. GILL - From left, Tom Hansen, Brent Moschetti and Doug Lofting, who are in the process of organizing the car show portion of the 2013 Airshow of the Cascades, are joined by auto enthusiasts Bob Mammen, with his ‘58 Del Ray Chevy, and Gerald Tucker, with his ‘69 Pontiac GTO.Air show shows steady growth

From its start at the Madras airport in 2000, the air show has steadily grown from around 1,000 attendees to about 10,000 last year — making it the second largest air show in the state after the much larger Hillsboro air show.

Gardner has many theories about why the air show has continued to grow — even through a recession. "It's small, and it's quality. Word gets around," he said, noting that it's "family friendly, fairly priced, smaller scale," and in a beautiful setting, with "the Cascades stretched out in front of you as a backdrop."

In addition to the wide open skies, beautiful scenery and affordable tickets, the Madras show has another key feature that sets it apart from many of the larger shows. "Everything is close up and comfortable," said Gardner. "You can touch the aircraft and actually talk and mingle with the aerial performers."

No matter where they sit or stand, viewers are close to the flight line. "Even where you park your car, which is free by the way, you are literally a two- to three-minute walk from your car to the aircraft displays and flight line," he said.

A factor that may contribute to future growth of the air show is the city's recent alliance with Erickson Aero Air, which took over the Butler Aircraft firefighting operation and assumed Butler's lease of the city's 40,000-square-foot building at the airport in November. That operation became Aero Tanker, which will eventually have a total of seven MD-87s at the airport, in addition to the three DC-7s it acquired from Butler.

Aero Tanker may just be the tip of the iceberg. In March, the city of Madras, which owns and operates the airport, signed a long-term lease agreement with Aero Air for three acres to build a museum to house Jack Erickson's aircraft collection, which is currently housed at the Tillamook Naval Air Museum. Aero Air may break ground on the 65,000-square-foot building, which will house the museum, as early as this summer.

Air show officials are hopeful that they may persuade Erickson to bring over two of the aircraft for the August air show. "We don't have a commitment," said Rob Berg, airport manager, "but we hope so. It would be a couple of aircraft that are one of a kind."

Performers interact with public

In preparing for this and every air show, the organizers of the Airshow of the Cascades purposely seek out performers who enjoy interacting with the public. Many of those performers, such as Bud Granley, of Bellevue, Wash., an aerial performer for more than 50 years, return again and again, according to Berg, who has managed the airport since 2006.

“He’s been a mainstay at the Madras airport since it first started.”

After trying for several years to book nationally known performer Kent Pietsch, who flies an 800-pound Interstate Cadet with a 37-foot wingspan, former airport manager Don Mobley, who started the air show in 2000 and continues to book the talent, was finally successful this year.

"He performs all over the United States, and he's always been booked," said Mobley.

Pietsch keeps viewers spellbound with three different acts, including: landing his plane on top of a motorhome; a "deadstick" landing — with the engine off; and a clown act that includes flying with a detached wing flap.

"I’ve been wanting to see (his act) for a lot of years," said Berg, who expects Pietsch to be a crowd pleaser. "We haven’t been in financial position to do that in the past."

Fortunately, air show organizers met Pietsch last year, and were able to visit with him again at the International Council of Air Shows in Las Vegas this year, where they also met up with the show’s other acts.

"He’s heard how much fun our air show is and he wants to come here," said Berg, who was elated by their good fortune in booking Pietsch.

"The air show’s growing, and the more national acts we’re able to draw, the bigger the air show becomes," he said, noting that people who have seen the shows on the circuit will make a point of attending.

Other performers will include Dan Buchanan, of Dayton, Nev., a paraplegic glider pilot, who does both a day and a night show; Will Allen, of Seattle, the Flying Tenor, who sings as he performs in his Pitts S-2B; Renny Price, of Aurora, with Hammerhead Aerobatics, in his Sukhoi SU-29; Greg Colyer, of Oakland, Calif., the "Ace Maker," in his T-33 jet; and Canadian Super Dave Mathieson, in his MX-2.

“By the time they leave, they’re part of the local aviation family,” said Berg. “We’re in contact with these guys all year long. Whenever they’re passing through the area, they’ll stop in.”

“Super Dave spent a week here between air shows last year, because he likes the area so well,” Berg added.

This has been a good year for booking performers, Mobley said. "Quite a few air shows around the nation have canceled due to the sequestration, because they relied on the military to do most of their entertainment, whereas we haven't relied on them for flying acts."

Central Oregon Sky Sports of Redmond will have skydivers, Dave Junker of Klamath Falls will give biplane rides in his 1943 Fairchild PT-19, and Leading Edge Helicopters of Bend will give helicopter rides.

by: PHOTO BY BILL VOLLMER - The 'wall of fire' display, a faux bombing run, is one of the most popular elements of the two-day Airshow of the Cascades.“We cram a lot of things into a short time to keep it exciting,” said Berg. “We don’t want to lose anybody; we want to have them glued to the sky the whole time they’re here.”

One of the most eyecatching events is Homeland Fireworks’ 500-foot Wall of Fire on Saturday, as well as their choreographed pyrotechnic display and fireworks Friday night. “The wall of fire’s pretty hard to beat; it’s pretty spectacular,” he said.

Static displays include aircraft, car show

In conjunction with the aerial portion of the show, there are also static displays of aircraft and unique vehicles, such as classic cars and hotrods. Gardner anticipates that there will be at least 120 aircraft participating in the fly-in. "This has been a popular air show in the past," he said. "Word is getting out about the changes in the airport."

Since 2009, Tom Hansen, Doug Lofting and Brent Moschetti have been organizing the car show portion of the event, which typically draws in about 75 vehicles.

"With improvements to the airport giving us more parking space, we're trying to get as many as 200," said Lofting, noting that the group has been sending out advertising material and attending other car shows to let more people know about the car show.

Besides the fact that there is no charge for participants to show their vehicles, those who sign up by Aug. 15 get two free admission tickets to the air show, as well as free admission to the pilot's tent.

For the first time this year, there will be a burnout demonstration on Saturday morning, which should be fun for viewers, Lofting said.

The car show is sponsored by Lofting's and Moschetti's businesses, Oregon Embroidery and Shielding International, Hansen's business, Figaro's Pizza, and this year, by Matt and Bill Thomas, who own Subaru of Bend, and Approved Auto of Madras, Redmond and Bend.

Car show participants can sign up at the air show's website,

On Friday evening, from 5-7 p.m., there will be live music by Triur Amadan in the north hangar, where a fish and chips dinner will be available beginning at 5:30 p.m.. The airport closes for the air show at 7 p.m., and reopens at 9 p.m., after the performances, when the music resumes.

On Saturday, the gates open at 8 a.m., when the Elks breakfast gets under way. Morning entertainment will include the One of a Kind Drumline, from Fort Vancouver High School; Rachelle Cooke, of Metolius; Central Oregonian Cassia Dawn; the Sunshine Exchange Cascade Rhythm Cloggers, of Redmond; and the Madras Army JROTC, and Redmond Marine JROTC drill teams. The singing and drill team performances lead up to the air show, which begins at 1:30 p.m., and concludes at 4:55 p.m.

Both Friday and Saturday, attendees will have a wide variety of food booths and other vendors to visit. Organizer Judy Solso expects to have up to 25 vendors — most of which have food booths.

"We try to keep booths that look good and are professional," said Solso, who has already booked Full Throttle Coffee, Baldy's BBQ, Saraki Thai Food, Rico Taco, Madras Bowl and Pizza, and Huckleberry Smoothies, as well as kettle corn, shaved ice, and elephant ear booths.

The Madras High School 2014 Parent Club will operate the burger booth, and the Kids Club, the hot dog booth as fundraisers.

"Most of these are my usual booths that come back every year," said Solso, noting that they pay $200 for the booth, and then take home whatever they net as profit. "I have to think they do well, or they wouldn't do it."

Last year, nonprofit groups operating booths as fundraisers took home more than $10,000.

With all the culinary delights available at the booths, the heartstopping performances in the air, and the displays on the ground, the Airshow of the Cascades seems to be building a large out-of-town following.

“In the last three years, we've started to see a lot more people who are coming from out of county,” said Gardner. Approximately 40 percent of the attendees hail from Jefferson and Crook counties, but the majority — a surprising 60 percent — is from Deschutes County.

“We're picking up more and more people from the Valley and Deschutes County," he said. "We've had people from Las Vegas, and last year, I sat and talked to couple from Texas, who specifically came to Madras.”