Fallon air show nixed for lack of precision flight team

FALLON -- The Fallon Air Show has been scrubbed this year, apparently the victim of the growing popularity of the Reno Air Races.

While the annual spring event is one of the Fallon area's biggest draws, along with the cantaloupe festival in the late summer, organizers say they were unable to draw one of the top three precision flight teams.

"Everyone felt we needed to have a jet team," Fallon Tourism Director Rick Gray told the Lahontan Valley News.

The Air Force's Thunderbirds are booked for the Reno National Championship Air Races in September. The Navy's Blue Angels and the Canadian Snowbirds have no openings, according to Zip Upham, spokesman for Naval Air Station Fallon.

"I would like to be able to say there's always next year," he said.

While the Fallon show draws an estimated 50,000 people, last year's Reno races attracted a record 223,000.

Gray said the air shows are major recruiting devices for the military and the goal is to play to the biggest crowd.

"They are really looking to maximize their population centers," Gray said.

Upham said that since Sept. 11, the military also has been edgy about hosting large numbers of civilians on its bases.

"It's probably better served if we have air shows at municipal air fields," he said.

In Reno, meanwhile, the air races announced a record purse topping $1 million for this year's Sept. 11-14 event.

President and Chief Executive Officer Mike Houghton credited community support for the air race association's dramatic financial turnaround.

In 2001, the races were canceled because of the Sept. 11 attacks, costing the association $1.2 million and casting doubt over the event's future.

But volunteers, vendors, the record crowd and and an increased corporate sponsorship of $500,000 saved the races.

Last year, the association guaranteed racers $800,000 but paid a record $870,000, he said.


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