Nancy Edmonds Hanson
When a premiere line-up of the nation’s top pilots take to the skies over Hector International Airport on Saturday and Sunday, July 24 and 25, it’s the climax of nearly two years of work … here on the ground.
The Fargo AirSho is expected to draw 25,000 to 30,000 ticket-holders to the Fargo airport for the 15th time since its founding in 1989. Headlining the soaring summer highlight are the US Navy’s Blue Angels flight demonstration team, who will be returning for its 12th ear-splitting, awe-inspiring visit.
“It really does take two years,” says Dick Walstad of Fargo, who co-chairs the show with retired Maj. Gen. Mike Haugen, the former adjutant general of the North Dakota Air National Guard. “To plan for our next show in 2023, we needed to get our request in to the Department of Defense by July 1.”
Adds Haugen, “The Blue Angels and Thunderbirds [who have headlined the show twice] pick their shows and dates two years in advance.” He adds, “I’ve been told that when Fargo applies, we’re always on the top of the pile.”
The Blue Angels’ 2021 visit is special in several ways. A Fargo native and Concordia College graduate, Commander Brian Kesselring, heads the US Navy’s flying team. The AirShow also marks one of the first appearances of the team’s new F/A-18E Super Hornets.
Tickets are on sale now for the air show at the F-M Convention & Visitors Bureau and the Fargo Air museum. Adult tickets for one day’s admission are $20 in advance or $25 at the gate, with youth (11-17) $10 in advance and $15 at the gate. Children 10 and under are free with purchase of a full-price ticket.
Selling those tickets is critical to keeping the AirSho flying high. Walstad and Haugen estimate the budget for the 2021 event at $700,000, a substantial price increase due to rising costs across the board. “We figure that 50,000 people watched the show in 2018 and 2019,” Haugen says, “but just half of those bought tickets and were present on the grounds. The event is sponsored by its own nonprofit corporation, with no tax money involved. Instead, the difference between ticket-holders and the final bill is made up by corporate sponsors and the sale of reserved seating in tent “chalets” at the flight line. Principal sponsor RAD AeroSports is joined by a long list of corporate donors. Past shows have been so successful that the organization has been able to donate more than a half million dollars to the Fargo Air Museum and other worthy causes.
Admission to the grounds brings more than a premium seat for watching the skilled pilots overhead. Since aerial productions are scheduled around Hector’s commercial flights, ground attractions play an important part both days. Aircraft will be on hand for tours, including the mammoth C-130J Super Hercules cargo jet; the restored B-25J “Miss Mitchell,” a World War II bomber; and the Red Tail Rise Above exhibit of vintage WWII warbirds. Visitors can learn more about aviation-related careers in a brand-new educational STEM exhibit area.
Among ground performers are the Shockwave Jet Truck, which reaches speeds of 350 mph powered by three Pratt and Whitney aircraft jet engines, and Blessed FMX performing a program of freestyle motocross stunts. The US Navy Band will also perform a concert.
Big things, of course, will be happening in the Fargo-Moorhead skies. Besides the Blue Angels and the US Air Force’s Air Combat demonstration team in F-16 Vipers, aerial headliners include a dual performance by the jet-powered 1939 single-engine WACO and twin-powered YAK 110; the Leap Frogs, the Navy’s parachute team; Skydive Fargo; and area pilots Kent Pietsch, a native of Minot, and brothers Paul and Jarrod Lindemann of RAD AeroSports, based in Valley City.
For more information on the schedule, headliners and tickets, go to www.fargoairsho.com.