Crowds enjoy up-close entertainment

by: HOLLY M. GILL - The 'wall of fire' faux bombing run thrilled the crowd near the end of Friday's action at the Airshow of the Cascades. The event at the Madras Airport enjoyed its largest crowd ever, and featured the B-17 from the Tillamook Air Museum, which took to the sky on Sunday.With well over 100 planes flying in, and thousands of people in attendance, the 14th annual Airshow of the Cascades was one for the record books.

"We had an overall increase at the gate of 20 percent paid attendees," said Rick Allen, treasurer for the Airshow of the Cascades Committee, adding that Friday's numbers were up by 25 percent, and Saturday's, by 15 percent.

"It was very noticeable to us," said Rob Berg, manager of the Madras Municipal Airport, where the event was started in 2000. From about 1,000 attendees the first year, it has grown to over 10,000 — making it the second largest air show in the state, after the much larger Hillsboro air show.

Along with the increased attendance, organizers saw a corresponding increase of 25 percent in sales of merchandise, such as hats and T-shirts.

by: HOLLY M. GILL - The crowd focuses on an aerial performance on Friday evening at the Airshow of the Cascades. Attendance on Friday was up 25 percent over last year."The air show was a resounding success," said Berg. "The vendors were really busy. It's great to have that kind of community event."

A variety of factors contributed to the air show's success, according to Allen, including the sponsorship of Morgan Distributing and Budweiser; the warm, but not hot weather; smoke-free skies; increased advertising; the expansion of Erickson Aero Tanker; publicity about Erickson's plans to bring its Tillamook Naval Air Station Museum to Madras; display of several Erickson warbirds at the show; and increased participation by community groups.

"The ability to build a relationship with a major Oregon company with a national brand (Morgan Distributing) has allowed us to expand branding with additional advertising and cross-promotions in a larger market that includes Wasco, Hood River and Clackamas counties," said Allen.

The Erickson connection has also been a boon for the air show. "The publicity in the last few months of the museum moving to Madras, along with the arrival of the Erickson Aero Tanker operations, has elevated Madras as a major player in aviation-related interests that include air shows," he pointed out.

Even with the increased attendance, which Mack Gardner, chairman of the air show committee, estimated at 12,000-13,000, the event went off without a hitch.

"This was probably the smoothest air show in recent memory," said Gardner, crediting the "seasoned board and volunteers who have returned over the years."

The seven-member board, about 15 die-hard air show fans who attend planning meetings, and another 100 or so volunteers who show up Thursday, Friday and Saturday to assist at the show all ensure that the event is a fun event for entire families.

Although the air show finished its two-day run on Saturday, some of the pilots had such a good time that they stayed an extra day or two, attending the after-burner party at Geno's on Saturday evening, and then returning to the airport to sit around and visit in the hangar, said Gardner.

Fortunately, the air show was over before Saturday's rain and Sunday's severe storm. Berg reported wind gusts up to 77 mph, hail the size of quarters, and 1 1/2 inches of precipitation on Sunday afternoon at the airport, where one local resident's small plane flipped over and was completely destroyed.

Some of the performers stayed until Monday to avoid flying out during Sunday's violent weather.

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