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Emily Welker, Published April 18 2013

Fargo Airsho canceled after unanimous vote

FARGO – The Fargo AirSho scheduled for Aug. 10-11 has been canceled, a decision that comes after the Navy’s Blue Angels flying team canceled the rest of its season because of federal budget cuts.

“A lot of people come just for the Blue Angels,” said Ralph Jose, who attended the committee meeting when the unanimous decision was made Thursday.

AirSho leaders pointed to national studies showing that air show audiences list military acts as the top reason for attending.

AirSho co-chairman Darrol Schroeder said only a small percentage of people without flight experience can look at a pilot performing aerial stunts and appreciate how tough it is, while almost everyone recognizes the difficulty of what the Blue Angels and their jets do.

“High speed, high up in the air, formations of six in the sky – not many of the civilians do that,” Schroeder said. “And there’s a pride thing – these are our guys.”

“The bottom line is financial,” said Dick Walstad, AirShow co-chairman.

AirSho officials didn’t get into specific numbers about how the cancellation will affect the nonprofit financially. They acknowledged that canceling contracts with acts they had signed contracts with is less of a potential loss than holding a show with low attendance.

AirSho officials said they will focus their energies on launching a strong show in 2015, the first year the Blue Angels likely would be available to perform in Fargo.

Several committee members bemoaned the lack of consensus in Washington that led to the sequestration that’s keeping the Blue Angels at home in Pensacola, Fla.

“It’s extremely disappointing Congress can’t reach an agreement about the function of government – military in particular,” Walstad said.

He said cancellation of the AirSho represents a more than $1 million loss to the Fargo-Moorhead economy in terms of tourism and recreation dollars spent on hotels, motels, restaurants, bars, gas, car rentals and other spending.

At issue, too, are AirSho proceeds typically given to area charities such as the Boy Scouts, who volunteer to help run the event.

Another recipient is the Fargo Air Museum, which has received more than $200,000 from the AirSho, said Fran Brummund, the museum’s director of donor relations and marketing.

The grand opening of the museum’s new wing, set to coincide with the AirSho, is also in jeopardy, Brummund said – not because of financial reasons, but because inclement weather caused the project to be 20 days behind schedule.

Brummund said the opening date for the new wing should be firmed up by July.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Emily Welker at (701) 241-5541