Wow, what an air show

The first clue was sitting in the turn lane on U.S. Highway 26 for about a half-hour on Friday evening — the Airshow of the Cascades was morphing into something different, something very big.

Most people expected the 2014 air show would be the most highly attended in the event's history, just like the 2013 show had been. The Erickson Aircraft Collection museum was opening its doors, the veterans memorial was being dedicated, the weather was near perfect. The stars were aligned.

But to go from 10,000 people in 2013 to an estimated 16,000 this year, wow. Not sure many predicted that kind of jump. The overwhelming attendance put a strain on logistics, but it was all handled without the the thousands of up-looking onlookers even noticing.

It seems that the main charm of the show, its draw to outsiders, is its nostalgic, patriotic feel: the wonderful historic planes — whether on the ground or entertaining in the air — across the grounds of the airport born as a WWII training base, those hangars still standing guard. The expansive car show certainly adds to the ambiance, as does, of course, the powerful view of the Cascades. And now, the finest collection of historic aircraft in the world is just down the sidewalk.

What a perfect frame to house an air show.

Something that doesn't get enough attention is how the show involves many local nonprofits and service organizations. While many of those groups volunteer to help (most noticeably, the folks at New Life who aptly handle the admission gate), some set up food booths. The Kids Club board, which I'm a member, sold more hot dogs on Friday night than we did on both Friday and Saturday last year. It's fantastic that the local nonprofits are welcomed in and allowed to make some money, to fuse back into the community.

Of course, the challenge for the show will be to continue the climb upward, to enrich the entertainment, to keep the show fresh, to add surprises and up the ante each year. Mack Gardner, the chairman of this year's show, roundaboutly addressed that topic by noting the success of this year's event has kick-started the finances for next year's show.

We're already looking forward. Put on your old leather pilot helmet. The Airshow of the Cascades is taking us for an exciting ride!




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