Blue Angels highlight free Fallon air show
September 7, 2009
The Naval Air Station Fallon Air Show, after an eight-year absence, is returning this year on Sept. 11 with a few extra twists.
But one event remains constant. The one-day air show will feature the world famous Blue Angels.
Rick Lattin, who served on the original committee in the late 1980s, said the show initially was a joint effort between the base and the community, and he added the community approached the base about having the show.
He said a few members of the committee remembered air shows from the 1950s and thought it would be ideal to bring them back.
Thus, an air show at NAS Fallon was born.
Lattin said there were a number of private acts at the shows in previous years.
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“If you have the Blue Angels you have an air show,” he said.
The Blue Angels roared overhead to the delight of thousands of people on a crisp, beautiful October day in 1988. Churchill County schools dismissed students early so that they could witness the first of many air shows to come.
In addition to the Blue Angels making their first appearance at NAS Fallon since 1959, the U.S. Marine Corps Silent Drill Team performed as did the Navy Leapfrogs Parachute Team.
Fallon’s first modern-day air show was a success. Both NAS Fallon and the Churchill County Sheriff’s Office estimated the crowd at 30,000.
The 1989 air show added a few more acts but the Blue Angels did not return until 1990.
Rick Gray, who became director of the air show in 1991, said the air show was a way to help local businesses prosper since the base back then had little services for its employees.
“It was a nice collaboration that started early.” said Gray, the city’s tourism director.
He also said it was a free air show that took place during the latter part of the week and huge crowds turned out for the events.
The first six air shows were held in either September or October, but as the crowds crew, the air show committee had the option of moving to event to other months to accommodate the Blue Angels.
No event was bigger than when the Blue Angels performed, and the base tried to convince the popular fliers to come to Fallon every other year for the show. In the years the group was unable to come, jet teams and Top Gun pilots performed for the crowd.
“It has always been a military show,” Gray said, mentioning the show earns money for nonprofit groups.
Gray said things changed in 1999 when the regional office of the Department of Defense decided to hire a company specializing in producing air shows. The Fallon businesses stepped back.
The air show also expanded to two days in 1997 and 1999.
Zip Upham, the base’s public affairs officer, said the air show drew roughly 60,000 to 70,000 people when the air show was a two-day event.
He said the air show in 1988 stated out as a one-day event, but it became so popular another day was added in 1997 and 1999 before going back to one day on July 29, 2000.
Upham said the reasons there has been no air show for eight years is because of scheduling issues.
“The schedule was driven by the Blue Angels,” he said.
He added another problem is the difficulty of projecting the air base’s training schedule a year in advance.