With spring just around the corner, I’m sure many of you are busy planning club events for the upcoming season. If you are considering putting on an air show and are looking for suggestions to help make it successful, look no further.
I’ve asked Rich Vedepo of the Iowa City Aerohawks in Iowa City, Iowa, to write a few words about the club’s annual show and how it’s put together. I attended it last year and it was one of the best-organized and entertaining air shows that I’ve ever been to. Take it away Rich:
Twenty-two years ago the Iowa City Aerohawks RC club was looking for a way to grow its membership and make some money to help out with some field improvements. It was decided to hold a Demonstration Day and invite the general public. As a small club of roughly 30 members, we would need everyone’s participation.
With limited funds for the project, we had to rely on our resourcefulness. We used cardboard from old refrigerator boxes to make signs for advertising around town, rented a bullhorn for a PA system, and rallied the pilots willing to fly in the event.
One of our members runs a vending machine business and provided candy to sell at a makeshift concessions stand. That first year we had approximately 100 people show up to see what we were are about, and we considered it a success.
After that first event, we felt we needed to make the next one bigger to keep it interesting, adding to our expense. As treasurer, I worried if we would have enough money in the club treasury to cover the cost of the food purchased for the concession stand. Our club president kept saying that people would come, and come they did.
After the third year, the event name was changed to more closely describe what it had become—a full-fledged air show. Mock dogfights, streamer cuts, the limbo, and candy drop are but a few of the events that thrill and delight the audience, and today we perform to crowds ranging from 1,200-2,000 people annually.
Since the first Demo Day, our club has more than doubled in size. We have added 550-foot and 300-foot crossing fabric runways, built a 1,100-square-foot heated and air-conditioned clubhouse, expanded our parking area, and increased our bleacher seating capacity to accommodate more than 600 people. We’ve held our club dues to only $50 per year, partly because of the income generated from the concessions and the sale of raffle tickets at our annual show. The show still remains free to the general public.
We have been asked why we think our event has been so successful.
• You need the commitment of your entire club. It takes more than a handful of good pilots to pull off the show. You need people to help prepare the facility, put up advertising and signage, park cars, work in the concession stand, etc.
• Run your event as close to a full-scale air show as possible. Have a program printout for the pilots showing the events they are in and the time slots allotted for each event.
• Choreograph your show to music. It’s entertaining plus it will keep your event running on time.
• Avoid “dead spots” to keep the attention of the spectators. Have the pilots ready to fly two events ahead in case something else gets scratched.
• Always have an alternative plan in case the unforeseen arises, which it normally does. Remember, you are dealing with mechanical things that seem to not want to work the day of the show, as well as things you have no control over such as wind, rain, and heat from Mother Nature.
• The biggest thing to keep in mind is gearing the show to entertain the crowd. The bottom line is to make it fun for everyone.
There’s nothing better than seeing all the smiles on the faces and hearing the excitement of the crowd when the show is done. That’s what makes it all worthwhile.
Take a kid flying!