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AirFest becomes a victim of economy

ST. PETERSBURG — To people who love the thunder of an F-15 fighter jet, the chop-chop-chop of a Black Hawk helicopter, or the heart-stopping maneuvers of stunt pilots, the skies will seem empty this October.

The St. Petersburg AirFest has been canceled.

Event president David Thompson said corporate contributions have lagged because of the economy. Volunteer organizers needed to pay upfront costs to the airborne performers, and the money just wasn't coming in, he said.

"We felt that rather than go to a smaller show, we would rather wait a year, because the people have come to expect a certain level of excellence, and we don't want to disappoint them," said Thompson, a retired airline pilot.

None of the AirFest's supporters refused to donate, but they simply hadn't done so as payment deadlines arrived, Thompson said. Some of the AirFest's benefactors are real estate-related companies, undoubtably suffering from the housing slump.

Those who did donate can request refunds; otherwise the money will go toward the planned 2009 AirFest. Tickets for the event had not yet gone on sale.

This year's AirFest, which would have been the third, would have included an Air Force F-15, stunt pilots, military vehicles, vendors, and a fire-spewing "jet truck."

For now, organizers are looking hopefully toward next year.

"We feel that it's a first-class event, first-class performances, close to home, and what we consider to be a very reasonable price ($10)," Thompson said.

AirFest becomes a victim of economy 06/25/08 [Last modified: Thursday, June 26, 2008 6:58pm]

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