Airborne AGAIN


airport-1 COLOR

Rockford AirFest photo.


Dysfunction in Washington killed last year’s Rockford AirFest.

But  threats of sequestration and military budget cuts aren’t anywhere on the horizon this time around and the popular show at Chicago Rockford International Airport comes roaring back to life this Saturday and Sunday.

“Rockford AirFest 2014: Let the Thunder Roll,” features three military precision teams representing the United States and Canada along with a series of additional air performers, plus other events and tours at the airport.

“We’re excited (with) the vibe from our sponsors, our volunteers and our entire community,” said Amy Ott, airport deputy director. “There aren’t that many community events of this magnitude. I think everyone’s pretty excited to bring back the Rockford AirFest.”

Headliners include the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds, now in their 61st season. The Thunderbirds are scheduled to perform in 66 shows this year. The unit features aerial demonstrations varying between formation flying and solo routines.

Also on hand will be the U.S. Army Golden Knights, an 89-member skydiving performance unit that dates back to 1961. The Golden Knights have performed in 50 states and 48 countries and are officially part of the U.S. Army’s Marketing and Research Group.

The Canadian Forces Snowbirds Demonstration Team also return, making one of just five U.S. shows the year. The Snowbirds, based in Moosejaw, Saskatchewan, perform 50 different formations and maneuvers using Canadair CT-114 jets.

A streamlined admission fee process offers $20 advance or $30 on-site admission per carload.

Grounds are open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., with performances scheduled to begin around 11 a.m.

Last summer’s show was grounded after government sequestration forced cancellation of military air shows. A last-ditch effort to reschedule around Labor Day weekend failed to take off.

“We kept waiting,” Ott said.  “We had the Blue Angels lined up but they weren’t releasing them and then it becomes a timing issue when you get so close to the start date and you don’t have your advance work done and your advance ticket sales and it could be a financial failure and you might not ever be able to do it again.

“If you don’t have a headliner for this type of show, it really impacts the attendance.”

The last show, held in 2012, drew an estimated 130,000 persons and contributed more than $3 million to the Rockford area economy.

It wasn’t difficult restarting the show for 2014.

“We’re a pretty good team here — this will be our ninth show,” said Ott. “We know how to put on an air show now and a lot of the building blocks that create a great show were already in place. … And we had a lot of sponsors interested in coming back.”

This year’s show will salute Vietnam veterans with complimentary one-day admission, parking, beverages and food, the chance to meet performers and inclusion in a commemorative Honors Program featuring biographies and photos.

Tickets can be purchased online at or at any participating area Culver’s Restaurant.


—Jack McCarthy