Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

MacDill Air Force Base | AirFest 2008

Attendance drops at MacDill's AirFest

Above, Tim Weber pilots his Extra 300S on Saturday during AirFest 2008 at MacDill Air Force Base. At left, Gretel Graham of Riverview photographs the U.S. Special Operations jumpers during a demonstration. Graham, 43, grew up attending the event. Her father retired from the Air Force while stationed at the base. Graham thinks she has attended at least 15, “quite a few.”

Above, Tim Weber pilots his Extra 300S on Saturday during AirFest 2008 at MacDill Air Force Base. At left, Gretel Graham of Riverview photographs the U.S. Special Operations jumpers during a demonstration. Graham, 43, grew up attending the event. Her father retired from the Air Force while stationed at the base. Graham thinks she has attended at least 15, “quite a few.”

TAMPA — Jesse Brincefield and his wife, Loren, have attended so many annual air shows at MacDill Air Force base, they've lost count.

But the Hudson couple never had an experience like the one Saturday. No traffic. Shorter lines for food and drink. Room to walk around.

"Last year, you couldn't move," said Loren. "This year, it's wide open."

MacDill spokeswoman Rebecca Heyse said attendance was down from previous years, judging from all the available parking. An estimated 60,000 came to the event Saturday, a sharp drop from last year's 150,000.

"We knew it would be a struggle because of the parking. We had about 5,000 fewer parking spaces than usual," Lt. Heyse said. "But we're very happy with the attendance."

Aside from gawking at the fighter planes that swept across the sky, AirFest vets spent much of their time gabbing about Saturday's crowd.

Bob Bieniasz, a Tampa resident, said he's never seen an AirFest crowd so small. He came with Scott Kline, a buddy from work, and they had braced for a long wait in traffic.

"The highlight so far?" said Bieniasz, 43. "The ease of getting in here."

A cool breeze was keeping the notoriously scorching AirFest temperatures in check, leaving Bieniasz and Kline to enjoy sipping their $4 Bud Lights while they watched the hardware in the air and the women on the ground. "Always a lethal combination," joked Kline, 50.

Theories abounded as to why, in such prime weather, there were fewer spectators. For some, it was the draw of this year's AirFest headliner. Usually, organizers try to book the Blue Angels or the Thunderbirds, who are to the air festival circuit what the Rolling Stones and U2 are to concerts.

Because of scheduling conflicts, AirFest organizers booked the Canadian Forces 431 Air Demonstration Squadron, otherwise known as the Snowbirds. It was a choice that didn't excite air show regulars like Tyler Tanner.

"I've never heard of the Snowbirds," said Tyler, 10, of Sarasota County. "I'm pretty sure they're good, but they're not as good as the Blue Angels."

Other possible reasons for the dip in attendance: high gas prices, lack of advertising, media reports about traffic issues, and the event's date, about a month later than usual to accommodate the Canadian fliers. But the public's weariness with the Iraq war was a popular theory, as well.

"A lot of people are fed up with the war," said Jesse Brincefield, who retired from the Air Force in 1994. "But they shouldn't stay away. They should come and see the good that our military can do."

Michael Van Sickler can be reached at (813) 226-3402 or mvansickler@sptimes.com.

If you go

The AirFest continues today at MacDill Air Force Base with free admission and parking. The schedule is:

8 a.m.: Gates open.

9 a.m.: Opening ceremonies.

9:20 a.m.-2:40 p.m.: A dozen aerial demonstrations.

2:40-3 p.m.: Parachute team.

3-5 p.m.: Canadian Forces Snowbirds, the headline act.

For information call (813) 828-7469 or visit macdillsairfest.com.

For more

For more pictures of the Snowbirds and other aerobatics, check out the photo galleries online. hillsborough.tampabay.com.

Attendance drops at MacDill's AirFest 05/03/08 [Last modified: Wednesday, May 7, 2008 9:14am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. State rolls out food assistance program for residents affected by Hurricane Irma

    Hurricanes

    Help is on the way for Florida residents struggling to put food on the table after Hurricane Irma.

    The Salvation Army Mobile Food Pantry hlped out with free food in Largo after Hurricane Irma. Now, the federal government is expanding access to food for people affected by the storm. [DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD  |  Times]
  2. Kriseman proclaims Buy Local week in St. Pete to quicken storm recovery

    Blogs

    Mayor Rick Kriseman has proclaimed next week to be "'Burg Buy Local Week" in an appeal to residents to help small businesses struggling to recover from Hurricane Irma.

    Mayor Rick Kriseman wants St. Pete residents to help small businesses recover from Hurricane Irma
  3. Only one Hernando County school needs schedule adjustment after Irma

    Blogs

    Hernando County public school students missed seven days of classes because of Hurricane Irma.

    Challenger K-8 School served as a Hernando County shelter during Hurricane Irma. Students returned to classes Monday, and won't need to make up any missed time.
  4. Editorial: Ready to put Irma behind? Maybe it's time to get ready, instead

    Editorials

    One can only marvel now, looking back at the radar image of Hurricane Irma whirling and jerking north between Tampa and Orlando and leaving two of Florida's major population centers with only scattered damage from its high winds.

    A hand-painted sign signals a West Tampa homeowner's resolve as Hurricane Irma approached the Tampa Bay Area on Sept. 10. [ALESSANDRA DA PRA   |   Times]
  5. Investigation launched into HHS Secretary Tom Price's travel on charter jets

    Nation

    Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price will face an inspector general's investigation into his reported use of chartered jets for at least two dozen flights in recent months at taxpayer expense.

    Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price will face an inspector general's investigation into his reported use of chartered jets for at least two dozen flights in recent months at taxpayer expense. A spokeswoman for HHS Inspector General Daniel R. Levinson told The Washington Post on Friday that the agency will request records of Price's travel and review the justification made by Price and his staff for the trips, which reportedly cost taxpayers a combined $300,000. [Associated Press]