Air show sets attendance mark
Visitors came from as far away as England and Canada for Jefferson County's signature event — the Airshow of the Cascades — last weekend, almost certainly setting a new attendance record for the two-day show.
"The Airshow of the Cascades was the place to be last weekend," said Joe Krenowicz, air show president and executive director of the Madras-Jefferson County Chamber of Commerce. "Perfect weather, clear blue skies and the Cascades was a great silhouette to experience an outstanding air show."
"We had first-time air show guests from Boise (Idaho), Victoria, British Columbia, and a couple from England, RV camping with their friends from Corbett, Oregon," he said, noting that many of those visitors were amazed by the impressive view of the Casade Range that "we enjoy every day."
"Our numbers were up, with more than a 10% increase in attendance based off our early estimates, with Friday night continuing to grow the most, year after year," said Rick Allen, treasurer for the air show. "We continue to see increased interest in the Friday night show with live music, fireworks and a festive atmosphere as the sun sets."
"Saturday continues to draw large numbers, however less growth than we experience on Friday night," said Allen. "The crowds are different, with Saturday more of the hardcore airplane buffs or private pilots who spend more time talking with pilots, getting up close to display aircraft, very interested in the types of planes and specifications."
Saturday is also the big day for veterans, families and people coming from out of the area planning to spend the day.
Despite the fact that general admission ticket prices increased by $5 to $20, and VIP tickets were increased by $20, both categories saw huge increases. "We had to cut off VIP Sales on Friday, since we sold out, as well as on Saturday, when we sold out of premier seating," said Allen, who does not expect major price changes next year.
"Our presales were up 50% in volume this year, due to increased marketing in the Bend and Portland area markets, due to support from the Central Oregon Visitors Association," Allen explained.
Looking at online sales, he said that 46% were from Deschutes County, with 50% of those from Bend addresses; Jefferson County had 13% of sales, and Crook County, 6%.
"We are seeing continued growth around Oregon as we expand our marketing and are recognized as a statewide event throughout Oregon," he said. "We had 14% of those purchasing prior to the weekend from the Portland metro area and another 20% from throughout Oregon and Washington and many other states, from Alaska, California, Arizona, Texas, Oklahoma and Idaho."
Marian and Gary Miller, of Oakdale, California, learned about the show when they decided to stop at the aircraft museum.
"We had been to the Tillamook one twice," said Gary Miller. "We decided it was a must-see. We found out about the air show and stayed an extra three days."
"We thought it was absolutely terrific," said Marian Miller, who was impressed with both the restorations at Erickson Aircraft Collection and the air show.
"The highlight was seeing the warbirds in flight," said Gary Miller, who appreciated the small-town atmosphere, and the fact that everything wasn't cordoned off.
"It was the best fireworks show we had ever seen and the drone show was neat," Marian Miller added.
Krenowicz heard many compliments regarding the air show, but one stood out. "The Friday night Pacific Power fireworks show was described to me as a watching all of the 007 action scenes in 10 minutes," he said. "It was truly a top of line show."
First-time visitor Athelia Fetter, of Madras, called the show "a wonderful event."
"This year, I marked it on my calendar," she said. "It's amazing the variety of what they have, the setting, the mountains, and the excitement of the show."
Dee Delyle, the FAA inspector in charge of overseeing the show, enjoys her visits. "This is a nice venue; it's much smaller and that makes it a lot more comfortable and more fun," said Delyle, a former bush pilot from Alaska.
Her son, Jeremy O'Neil, of Valdez, Alaska, a commercial pilot, accompanied her to the show for the first time. "It's amazing; with the backdrop of the Cascade Mountains, the vintage planes, and expert piloting, it's quite a show."
One of the youngest aerobatic pilots in the country, Ben Rose, 21, of Corvallis, returned to the show this year with his Pitt S-1S, to perform both days of the show.
"It's really special because it's somewhat local to me," said Rose, who came to the air show when he was much younger. "I thought it was amazing watching the aerobatics; it's kind of what made me want to do that. It's cool to be able to come back and do that in front of family and friends."
Rose, a fourth-generation pilot, will return for his senior year this fall at Oregon State University, where he is in the U.S. Air Force ROTC, plans to return to the air show whenever possible.
"You can expect to see me back here in years to come," he said. "I'll always want the come back here. The crowd is always super excited and engaged."
Overall, Krenowicz and Allen were very pleased with this year's show.
"It's always great to see the happy faces of the kids riding on the Crooked River Ranch Lions train and playing in the bouncy castles, reinforcing that the event is a family friendly and up-and-close experience," said Krenowicz.
"The eight months of planning and preparation culminating in the successful two-day show can only happen with all of financial support of our sponsors and the strong core of volunteers, and of course, the Board of Directors," he said.
Allen said that he had heard many positive comments about the drone show and the "spectacular" fireworks. "We have heard that loud and clear from everybody making comments online, on social media or personal contacts," he said. "We had increased participation in the motorcycle show, fly-in aircraft and we doubled the number of overflow RV and tents camping in our overflow area."
Pointing out that putting on the air show requires more than 300 volunteers, Allen said, "Those are the heroes in making this all work, along with our sponsors. The air show board wants to thank each of them, as well as the community locally for continued support of the event. Next year, we will celebrate our 20th anniversary and we're looking forward to that."
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