This year was a turning point for the Owensboro Air Show. With estimated crowds of 50,000 for the three day event, Owensboro City Events Coordinator Tim Ross says Owensboro has now built a brand with a reputation in the air show industry. Hosting the Thunderbirds definitely helped.
Which is all part of a greater plan to make the annual air show a signature event that draws heavily from the surrounding region. “What we want to do is continue to build our three signature events; the International Barbecue Festival in the spring, July 4th in the summer, and the Owensboro Air Show in the fall,” Ross said.
Now that we’ve hosted the Thunderbirds, where do we go from here?
Ross had been in contact with the Thunderbirds for two years to secure a date. While he can’t reveal who is coming next year yet, Ross did say that he has been in communication with the US Navy Blue Angels, the Royal Canadian Air Force Snowbirds, and several other top demonstration teams from other branches of military. The Thunderbirds are expected to return at some point, but it may be a few years until they’re back in the rotation.
Here are some other behind-the-scenes facts you may not realize about the Owensboro Air Show:
- Most air shows have some sort of admission fee. Ours is free because the City of Owensboro puts the air show into their annual marketing budget. Ross also gets sponsors for the event to help cover expenses. Most military demonstration teams, like the Thunderbirds, cover the bulk of their team’s expenses out of their recuitment and marketing budgets.
- The reason the performance was expanded to two days this year was so the Thunderbirds could have more exposure. Ross says two day air shows are pretty standard in the industry.
- Feedback from the performers was very positive. “They all loved Owensboro and can’t wait to come back. They loved the crowd, the interaction at the airport, and the hospitality they received. By and large, they love coming to a small town with a great draw,” Ross said.
- Crowd estimates were: 10,000 at the airport Friday night; 25,000 at riverfront Saturday; and 15,000 at riverfront Sunday.
- The last time the Thunderbirds were in Owensboro was 1975. (If you look on their official Instagram, they have a picture of the jets at Mid America Jet in 1975.)
- The last time the Thunderbirds full jet demonstration team performed in Kentucky was 1997 in Louisville.
If you missed our highlight video from the Owensboro Air Show this past weekend, watch it here.