For those who watched last February’s Super Bowl, Gladys Knight’s stirring rendition of the National Anthem was dramatically punctuated by a flyover courtesy of the Air Force Thunderbirds. That flyover is even more firmly attached to the traditions of the Super Bowl than the halftime show, and the roar of those planes add to the excitement of the event even for viewers at home.
That excitement is revisiting Fort Wayne as the Thunderbirds headline what is sure to be a thrilling return of the Fort Wayne Air Show, the first one since 2016. The air show is just one part of a big weekend planned and hosted at the Fort Wayne Air National Guard Base near the Fort Wayne International Airport.
Thank you to the community
The ability to host these air shows with some regularity is both a thank you and in thanks to considerable local support.
“We’ve been very fortunate with charitable giving from the community,” Col. Kyle Noel said. “We’ve gotten great support from our local businesses which has allowed us to bring in big name performers like the Thunderbirds to our area. We try to do it about every three years and hope that our next one will be in 2022.”
Regular attendees will be happy to know that the parking situation, which was unpopular last time, has changed for this year’s event.
“In 2016, we had folks park downtown and then bused them in for the event,” Noel said. “People didn’t really like having such a long bus ride to get here, so this year we’re having people park on site or near the site. There’s a grassy area across from Fort Wayne Metals, and Fort Wayne Metals has generously allowed us to have people park in their lot, and then they have a very short bus ride to get to the air field. People can just walk onto the base and will be much closer this year.”
Those who aren’t regulars can expect plenty to do aside from the excitement that comes from the air show itself. While the shows on both Saturday and Sunday begin at noon, gates open at 8 a.m., and there will be ample entertainment to tide the audience over until the fun begins midday.
“People don’t just have to sit around and wait for the show to start,” Noel said. “There will be vendors and a lot of static displays to check out. There’s a bouncy house and things for the kids to do. There are also exhibits to encourage kids and adults to look into the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics including some from Raytheon, NASA, some of the airlines, and Fort Wayne Metals. We really want to encourage more interest in those areas of study.”
Recruiting time for the Guard Base
While the air shows themselves are fairly well known and understood, there are two additional events hosted the Friday before which are, like the air shows, free and open to the public.
During the day, high school and college students are welcome to attend a recruiting event hosted at the guard base.
With the base hiring 100-150 people each summer, the recruitment event allows the base to share those opportunities with people who may be looking for a job and help in financing their education.
“There are a lot of great benefits for signing up with the Guard,” Noel said. “If you go to an Indiana school, it’ll pay your tuition, your books, your fees. There are way more benefits available now than there were when I first signed up. And you can make as much working for us on the weekend as you would working more hours at a minimum wage job. Hosting these events allows us to show them what the job entails.
“We’ll have food trucks, and they’ll be able to see the practices for the air show so it’s a nice preview for that, too. There are hundreds of career fields that people can learn about, and many of the state colleges will be here to explain how our benefits work. Anyone who is interested in coming to that can call us here at (260) 478-3247 or go to the Blacksnakes Recruiting page on Facebook.”
Parkview Field Event
Additionally there will be a very special event — also free admission — on Friday night, one which connects to an important date in American history.
“We realized that this year’s air show synced up with the 75th anniversary of D-Day, and so thanks to the Fort Wayne TinCaps, we’re going to host an event at Parkview Field to honor the Greatest Generation and all of their sacrifices for this country,” Noel said.
“Mason Dixon Line and the Ladies of Liberty will play a concert, and there will be special parachute fly-in along with four A10s doing a fly-by and fireworks. We’ll also have 10 local World War II veterans and will recognize them for all their sacrifices. No tickets are needed, it’s just free and open to the public. Parkview Field will open at 5 p.m., and there will be vendors there so people can get something to eat.”
Noel said that the event’s website, http://fwairshow.com, has a complete list of events and performers as well as maps that help people navigate their visit. It also has a list of items which are not allowed on the base (including knives and guns) so everyone is prepared to enter upon arrival. Noel is happy that they can continue to host these special events and is happy to share the 2019 Fort Wayne Air Show.
“I’m very much looking forward to paying back the community for all their support over the years.”
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