MANITOWOC, WIS. – The air show lineup was superb, the side attractions interesting, but the absence of modern military jet demonstrations had an overwhelming impact on attendance at the “Thunder On The Lakeshore” air show, June 8-9, 2013 at Manitowoc County Airport, Manitowoc, Wis. Medium to large size air shows across the country have experienced similar declines in attendance since federal budget sequestration went into effect earlier this year and military participation was curtailed. Smaller air shows and fly-ins which have never been dependent on military demonstrations, continue to grow!
Air show producer Curt Drumm says that in past years, the Manitowoc air show has had an economic impact of as much as $3 million on the local economy, and military participation has proven to be a tremendous recruiting tool. The weather has always played a major role in the success of the Manitowoc show, and while the forecast for rain on Sunday never materialized, families apparently made other plans that day. Attendance on Saturday was fair.
Dozens of general aviation aircraft flew in for the fly-in breakfast and air show – some from as far away as the Twin Cities to watch their hometown favorite, John Mohr, perform low-level aerobatics in his Stock Stearman. Other civilian performers included the wingwalking routine of Dave Dacy and Tony Kazian of Harvard, Illinois in Dacy’s all-powerful 450 hp Stearman; Jim “Fang” Maroney of Brookfield, Wis., in his de Havilland Super Chipmunk; Dr. Bill Blank of La Crosse, Wis., in his Super Decathlon; the Aerostars Aerobatic Formation Team of Cary, Illinois, flying three Yak 52s; and Capt. Bill Shepard of the Minnesota Wing of the Commemorative Air Force based at Fleming Field, South St. Paul in the Red Tail P51 Mustang.
The Tuskegee Airmen performed with three motorgliders and a T-6 Texan; Paul Stender of Indy Boy’s Extreme Jet Vehicles, raced Jim Maroney down the runway in his jet-powered school bus and jet-powered outhouse; veteran performer and aerobatic competitor, Bob Davis of Lake Geneva, Wis., flew a farewell performance in his Sukhoi 29; and radio-controlled aircraft operators performed aerobatics with the quickness that only an unmanned aircraft can.
Fowler “Big Dog” Cary gave the crowd a high-powered performance in his T-33 “Vintage Thunderbird” jet fighter each day, which helped fill the void created by the absence of modern military jets. Two L-39s and two T33s flew flybys on Saturday.
Phil Dacy of Harvard, Illinois, provided the narration, and Wayne Boggs of Tampa, Fla. was airboss.
Side attractions and exhibits at the Manitowoc air show included vintage aircraft, warbirds, homebuilts and corporate aircraft; Joe Shepherd and his Lockheed Electra Jr, which was featured in the motion picture “Amelia;” and Don Kiel of Whitelaw, Wisconsin, who displayed his Beech 18, “Lady Lynn.”
The United States Tennis Association “Smash Zone” provided lessons for children, and a children’s area with games and exhibits featured a 1/3-scale F117A “Nighthawk” Stealth Bomber replica.
There were airplane and helicopter rides, and balloon launches in the morning, and balloon glows at sunset along the riverfront in downtown Manitowoc with Great Lakes ore ships passing by on Lake Michigan for the ultimate backdrop. The City of Manitowoc performed a demonstration with its Police K-9 unit; and an evening concert featured “Ladies for Liberty,” singing a 1940s tribute to the “Andrews Sisters,” along with the “Bourbon Cowboys.”
The air show was produced by Manitowoc Aviation Resources, Inc., a non-profit 501c3 educational corporation, providing aviation education to students in northeastern Wisconsin.
The future of the Manitowoc air show is uncertain. Drumm says that it will all depend on corporate sponsorships and whether or not the U.S. military returns (www.manitowocairshow.com).