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Attendance at air show explodes

Crowd estimated at 16,000 for two-day event


Photo Credit: TOM BROWN - A German Focke-Wulf 190 is trailed by a P-51 Mustang above Homeland Fireworks' Wall of Fire on Saturday, after a re-creation of a World War II aerial dogfight for the enjoyment of attendees at the 15th annual Airshow of the Cascades. The two-day event drew about 16,000 people and about 150 aircraft.Organizers knew the 15th annual Airshow of the Cascades — held Aug. 22-23 at the Madras Municipal Airport — would be big, but no one knew just how big.

With the long-awaited opening of the Erickson Aircraft Collection right next door and the dedication of the Veterans War Memorial Plaza on Cherry Lane (see stories on page 1), as well as the expanded Car Show of the Cascades, the two-day event featured nonstop action.

Photo Credit: HOLLY M. GILL - The biggest crowd ever, estimated at 16,000, attended the 15th annual Airshow of the Cascades on Friday and Saturday, at the Madras Municipal Airport. The attendance was boosted by the opening of the Erickson Aircraft Collection, and the unveiling of the nose art for Erickson's B-17, the Madras Maiden, as well as an expanded Car Show of the Cascades, and the dedication of the city's Veterans War Memorial Plaza. Total attendance for the two-day event was estimated at 16,000 — up 60 percent over last year's estimate of 10,000, according to Rick Allen, treasurer for the air show.

All afternoon Friday, northbound traffic headed for the show was backed up all the way down into Madras, and Friday evening, food vendors and the fish and chips dinner sold out, as attendance soared.

"The annual fish and chips sold out at 500 people served," said Allen, noting that they have consistently sold 500 dinners for the past three years, after they increased it from 400 dinners.

"The ability to increase it is based on the logistics of fryers to cook the food," he said. "We will be looking at increasing the number of fryers in the future so we can serve 600 next year, with increased efficiency, to reduce the amount of time spent in a line."

Even though the number of food booths was increased from 14 last year to 22 this year, they all sold out Friday night, and had to buy new provisions for Saturday's show.

"Everybody had to go back to the stores," said vendor and booth organizer Judy Solso, adding that they were all very pleased with their sales. "They're all coming back next year."

The tremendous increase in attendance meant the event will have more "seed money" than ever before to begin preparation for next year's show, said Mack Gardner, chairman of the event.

"Having finished in the black allows us to have a baseline of dollars to start planning for next year," said Gardner, who expects that number to increase as other moneys come in. "We'll have a nice chunk of change to get started on."

Photo Credit: SUSAN MATHENY - A spectator checks out Burlon Miller's 1934 Ford pickup, which won 'Best Engine' at the car show.  The Friday night and Saturday events have nearly equalized in popularity, Allen said. "The gap between the two days has been narrowing the last three years, which shows the increasing popularity of the Friday night dusk and fireworks show," he said.

The Car Show of the Cascades drew 150 vintage cars and hot rods, according to Tom Hansen, one of the organizers. "We had a lot of really super nice cars — some we never had before," he said.

The downside to the 50 percent increase over last year is space constraints. "We're really running out of room," said Hansen, who hopes to keep the car show at the current level for next year.

The air show continues to attract a variety of acts, from aerobatics to skydivers to fireworks.

New to the show was 26-year-old Canadian Stefan Trischuk, of Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, who was flying his Pitts Special X2C in only his fifth show ever.

Photo Credit: HOLLY M. GILL - Stefan Trischuk visits with Max Miller, 10, of Bend.Even though he's been flying for seven years, this is Trischuk's first season of performing, and as such, he is required to do all his aerobatics at 800 feet or higher.

"This is a fantastic little town, but man, things really come together for the show," said Trischuk, who set himself the goal of flying air shows when he was a teenager.

"It's been quite the experience," he said. "There's no place I'd rather be than an air show."

Max Miller, 10, of Bend, attended the air show with his mother, Penny Lehr, of Bend, and was pleased to get an autograph from Trischuk. However, his favorite part of the show wasn't the aerial acts.

Photo Credit: HOLLY M. GILL - Aerobatic pilots 'Super Dave' Mathieson, at left, and Jon Melby fly their aircraft, a Pitts and MX2, respectively, above Homeland Fireworks' Wall of Fire at the Airshow of the Cascades on Friday night. The two-day event attracted 16,000 attendees."I liked the wall of fire and the (aerobatic act) that made the fire over there," he said, referring to the nearly one-acre grass fire started by fireworks from an aircraft on Friday night and quickly extinguished by the Jefferson County Fire Department.

Lehr was more enthused about the aerobatics. "Honestly, it's just mesmerizing to see the planes and what they can do — how they cut their engines," she said.

Besides those who drove over from other communities in Central Oregon, many others brought their RVs and stayed at the airport.

"The number of people renting RV parking along the showline nearly doubled this year to around 80 RVs paying $40 to park, and that includes just the driver; any other person in the RV pays the daily rate of admission," said Allen.

To accommodate a larger event this year, the parking lot to the south of the new veterans memorial was expanded, with some additional parking prepared early on Saturday morning to guarantee plenty of parking, Allen said.

"We had capacity for additional cars should that have been needed. In addition we added wash stations and toilets this year to make sure they were available at various locations."

Because of the huge expansion in attendance, the Airshow of the Cascades Board of Directors and Committee will begin reviewing and planning for next year's show immediately.

Photo Credit: ANDREA GILL - Homeland Fireworks' bright fireworks display on Friday evening was a big draw for attendees at the Airshow of the Cascades. In addition to their fireworks and signature 'Wall of Fire' event, the evening was lit up by aerobatic performers, skydivers, and the Crook County Navy JROTC's lighted drill team demonstration."A formal review will be expanded to treat the air show much like you do a fire, flood or major sporting event that draws lots of people; the issues are the same," said Allen. "It's logistics — dealing with emergencies, parking, sanitation, sound systems, entrance and exits to the event, crowd control, etc. We are looking at a more streamlined system for volunteers, ticketing and sponsorship passes and armbands, with more online ticketing prior to the event."

Despite the increase in attendance, there were few problems reported, and no accidents or major emergencies, he said.

Feedback from the event has been overwhelmingly positive, said Gardner. "I spoke with a woman from Santa Rosa, Calif., who has an aircraft museum," he said. "One of her observations was that she was absolutely stunned that we run this entire air show with volunteers. She was dazzled; she couldn't believe how the community stepped up for the air show."

The board has already set a date for next year's event. The 2015 Airshow of the Cascades is tentatively scheduled for Aug. 28-29, 2015, so mark your calendars.

Next week: winners of the air and car show contests.



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