2013 Southern Wisconsin AirFest canceled
JANESVILLE Southern Wisconsin AirFest has been canceled for 2013 and is not likely to return until a U.S. jet team is signed on for future air shows.
AirFest Executive Director Tom Morgan said Sunday an air show without the Navy's Blue Angels or the Air Force Thunderbirds is not financially sustainable.
"We had the Canadian Snowbirds signed for the 2013 show, but we could not get the Blue Angels or the Thunderbirds," Morgan said.
"While the Snowbirds have been a great addition to our shows, we just can't make it without one of the two U.S. jet teams."
The necessity for a U.S. jet team became more important after Rockford, Ill., announced it would feature the Blue Angels at its 2013 show. Historically, AirFest is only successful when the Thunderbirds or Blue Angels fly, Morgan said in a news release issued Sunday.
"Rockford's show next year is the first week in June with the Blues soon after our traditional Memorial Day weekend date," Morgan said. "Without a U.S. jet team, we could not compete."
Increased financial support, in addition to a U.S. jet team, is needed for future air shows, Morgan said.
"We need more community support and corporate sponsorship," he said. "We do not receive any public funding. In fact, we pay the county to use the airport."
The AirFest funding is in stark contrast to other air shows, including Rockford, Morgan said.
"Rockford has support from the country and their airport commission," he said. "They also have a 5 million-population market within a 45-minute to one-hour drive. We have to compete with that, and we can, but not without the Thunderbirds or the Blues."
Morgan said future air shows would cost $400,000 or more.
"Again, with that kind of budget, we need one of the two U.S. teams," he said.
Morgan has promoted AirFest's connection to Wisconsin Aviation Academy. Profits from the show go to local non-profit organizations that provide aviation programming and flight training for area youth.
"WAA has helped to make the dreams of young men and women a reality by providing graduates the opportunity to have careers in aviation that include airlines, corporate and the U.S. military," he said.
Morgan said that although additional community support and corporate sponsorship is needed, ABC Supply and other past corporate sponsors remain committed to the show.
"AirFest has a number of corporate sponsors in addition to ABC Supply who have been extremely generous in supporting this event every year since it inception," Morgan said. "Although, without additional corporate sponsorship, WAA may no longer be able to achieve the goals it has established for the youth of Rock County."
AirFest has donated more than $500,000 to local non-profit organizations, Morgan said.
Southern Wisconsin AirFest was founded in 2003.
Morgan said the lack of a U.S. jet team, not the loss of its lead corporate sponsor, was the reason the 2013 show was canceled.
"ABC Supply has been a tremendous lead sponsor for our event and remains committed to it," he said. "We welcome ABC Supply as our lead sponsor at our next show with the Blues or the Thunderbirds."
But AirFest President George Messina painted a bleak picture for the event.
"This was a great event that we have been proud of for the past 10 years. However, without additional community and sponsorship support and a U.S. jet team, AirFest is simply not sustainable," Messina said. "AirFest's generous sponsors are just that—sponsors; therefore, (they) have no financial responsibility associated with this not-for-profit entity.
"Their generosity and support have made it possible for AirFest to not only contribute to support the goals of WAA, but also over the past 10 years have injected millions of dollars into the local economy," Messina said.
AirFest's near-term future is in the hands of the Blues and Thunderbirds. They will announce next month whether they will come to Rock County in 2014.
"The application process was completed July 1," Morgan said. "We've completed all the paperwork necessary, so it's now just a matter of waiting to see if we get one of the teams.
"The teams select the counties," Morgan said. "Our 2014 plans depend entirely on whether one of the teams selects Rock County."