Oregon International Air Show two-event format to become norm
Air show fans can expect the Oregon International Air Show to look different in the future, according to Bill Braack, president of the air show.
Air show officials recently announced the event won't be held in Hillsboro for the second straight year. The Hillsboro Airport hosted the event for decades prior to 2019, when construction on a new runway at the airport forced event organizers to move the air show to McMinnville. The event in 2020 will take place at the McMinnville Airport Sept. 25-27.
In 2021, the air show will hold two events, one in Hillsboro and another in McMinnville. The announcement came after Braack spent a week at the annual International Council of Air Shows convention, where air show flight demonstration teams plan their schedules for the year.
Braack says air show fans should expect the dual-event format to continue beyond 2021. The two events will allow the air show to reach more people from a wider geographic area, and they will produce more revenue for the nonprofit air show's charitable giving, Braack said, adding that he's excited about the changes.
He doesn't know exactly how the air show at the Hillsboro Airport will look in 2021, he said. Air show officials will continue to discuss what role the air show should play in Hillsboro with stakeholders, including the Port of Portland, which runs the Hillsboro Airport; the city of Hillsboro; and Washington County, Braack said.
He expects the air show will have details about how the 2021 event in Hillsboro will look around the end of this year's first quarter, he said.
Kama Simonds, spokesperson for the Port of Portland, said the agency is happy to continue conversations with air show officials about future events at the Hillsboro Airport.
Simonds acknowledged that there are wide-ranging views about the air show in the Hillsboro.
"We also recognize that it's really quite a benefit for the Hillsboro community, and we also recognize that there are some community members and neighbors who may not appreciate it as much as others," Simonds said.
The history of air shows in Hillsboro dates back more than 70 years. Early shows in the 1940s helped convince air show officials to hold the show in Washington County in 1988 as part of the Portland Rose Festival, according to the air show's founders. The air show spun off as its own event from the Rose Festival in 2002.
The air show is currently one of Washington County's largest attractions, drawing more than 60,000 people and millions of dollars to the local economy each year. The show is the largest civilian air show on the West Coast.
Braack doesn't think future air shows in Hillsboro and their flight demonstrations will be diminished compared to previous years, he said.
"In any public event, you make any changes, there are going to be some that say, 'It's great, it's the best it has ever been,' and there are others that will say, 'Why did you make any changes? I want the old way,'" Braack said. "Any changes that we make will reflect where we're at today and where this community is headed in the future."
The air show's ability to host nationally renowned flight demonstration teams, such as the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds, has been key to its success. Braack said he is excited the Thunderbirds will have a demonstration at the 2021 show in McMinnville.
Air show officials want the events in Hillsboro and McMinnville to be distinct, Braack said.
"That will be part of our discussion moving forward," he said. "We want the two events to be different so that there's reason for folks to come to one versus the other, or both. If a bunch of people come to both, that helps support our charitable mission. It also allows us to reach more people."
Braack said air show officials are confident there's a market for two events. There are about 130,000 customers in the air show's database, and not all of them come every year, he said. The two events might allow the air show to increase attendance overall, Braack said.
The air show also might be able to benefit from additional event space that will soon be available near the Hillsboro Airport, Braack said. Washington County plans to complete construction on a new 89,000 square-foot community event center in the spring of 2020. Braack said he looks forward to working with the county and the city of Hillsboro on how the air show could use the event center.
"I'm super-excited," Braack said. "It will be a great way to return to Hillsboro."
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