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Exceeding expectations

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SHORT:Rain on Sunday kept lines short for those wanting to tour planes on “static display” at the Grissom Air and Space Expo.
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LANDING: Col. Larry Shaw, 434th Air Refueling Wing commander, completes a tandem parachute jump with Sgt. First Class Jared Zell, U.S. Army Golden Knights, to open up the 2019 Grissom Air & Space Expoon Saturday.
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BUZZ:The U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds fly past Grissom’s air traffic control tower during the Grissom Airand Space Expoon Sept. 7. The two-day event was the first airshow the base has held since 2003.
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SHELTER:Spectators escape the rain beneath the wing of a C-5M Supergalaxy at the Grissom Air and Space Expo on Sept. 8.
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JUST RIGHT:An American Champion 8KCAB Decathlon performs aerial acrobatics in front of an audience at the 2019 Grissom Air andSpace Expo on Sept. 7. With an estimated crowd of over 50,000, it was Grissom’s first air show in over 15 years.

BY JARED KEEVER - jkeever@perutribune.com

Despite challenging weather on Sunday, the word from Grissom Air Reserve Base is that the area’s first air show in 15 years was a success.

“Overall it exceeded all expectations,” public affairs chief for the 434th Air Refueling Wing, Doug Hays, told the Tribune on Monday.

“Saturday was awesome,” he said.

Estimates for that day’s attendance put visitors to the Grissom Air and Space Expo at between 30,000 to 50,000.

“It’s a guessing game,” he said.

Hays said the Indiana State Police estimated the number was around 35,000 spectators but pointed out that they didn’t monitor all parking areas. Other estimates put the numbers well over 40,000.

They all agreed, though, that Sunday, which saw rain on and off throughout the day and low clouds which kept a number of the flying acts including the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds from performing, saw less attendance. Estimates for the day were between 10,000 and 15,000 visitors

“Sunday was the day to go if you wanted to see all the static displays,” Hays said.

Lines to tour many of the planes on the ground for the show were much shorter Sunday, though the areas under the wings of many of the large tanker and cargo planes, like the behemoth C-5M Supergalaxy, became popular spots as spectators sought shelter from the day’s showers.

Hays said total visitors for the two days was easily in excess of 50,000 people.

Visitors, he said, won’t likely have to wait for 15 years for the next show.

This one, Hays has said in recent days, represents around 18 months or so of planning which means it is difficult to turn around and put on another show in one year. In all likelihood, he said, officials will probably shoot for doing a show every other year or so and alternating with other nearby shows.

In a news release, published to the base’s website, base commander, Col. Larry Shaw, praised the efforts of the team that put the show together.

“Even though the weather didn’t cooperate on Sunday, our guests throughout the weekend were treated to a first-class experience,” said Shaw, who helped kick off the show on Saturday skydiving with the U.S. Army’s parachute team, the Golden Knights. “Our team, led by Lt. Col. Brian Thompson, did an amazing job putting together an event that fostered great community relations, solid recruiting opportunities, bundled up in an awesome entertainment package. I’m so proud of him and the entire team that made Grissom shine.”