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Published April 09 2013

With Blue Angels grounded, AirSho in limbo

FARGO – The Navy has canceled the Blue Angels’ performances for the rest of this year, including the flying team’s appearance at the Fargo AirSho, leaving organizers to figure out if they can pull off the Aug. 10-11 event without their top act.

AirSho committee co-chairman Dick Walstad said he received a call late Monday from a Blue Angels’ liaison with the news.

“This is a huge blow to the Fargo AirSho Committee,” Walstad said. “But it’s the old story: If you have lemons, you try to make lemonade out of it.”

Walstad said he and other organizers don’t want to cancel the AirSho and are looking at the possibility of holding a fly-in of World War II warbirds to complement the air show performers already signed to contracts and dedication of the Fargo Air Museum’s new Beck-Odegaard Wing aircraft hangar addition.

Walstad said he hopes the AirSho committee can finalize plans by the end of next week.

On its website Tuesday, the Blue Angels announced that the Navy has canceled its remaining performances for 2013, citing federal budget cuts. The squadron will continue to train until further notice at its home station in Pensacola, Fla.

The news release stated that under current Defense Department policy, outreach events “can only be supported with local assets at no cost to the government.” Walstad said he was still trying to find out what that means and whether the AirSho could still possibly host one or two of the Blue Angels.

The loss of the Navy’s precision flying team is “pretty devastating” to the air show industry and its performers, Walstad said.

“These people, this is their livelihood,” he said.

The Blue Angels’ schedule showed 32 performances now canceled, including at the St. Cloud (Minn.) Air Show. Last week, the Central Minnesota Council of Boy Scouts canceled the St. Cloud show because of the lack of military aircraft available as a result of budget sequestration.

The U.S. Air Force earlier grounded its aerial demonstration teams – including the popular Thunderbirds – as of April 1, affecting more than two dozen air shows.

Walstad said he believes the public is “pretty hungry for some air shows, and there’s nothing.” He noted the Fargo AirSho, which was planning for an attendance of 30,000 people, already has contracts with some of the country’s top aerial performers.

“I think there’s an opportunity here to put on a pretty good event,” he said.

Proceeds from the AirSho are donated to local nonprofits, including the Fargo Air Museum.

The AirSho hadn’t paid the Blue Angels any of its $12,000 fee before receiving word of the cancellation, Walstad said.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Mike Nowatzki at (701) 241-5528