South Shore Air Show lands new home at Fair Oaks

2013-11-21T17:30:00Z 2013-11-22T23:52:10Z South Shore Air Show lands new home at Fair OaksLu Ann Franklin Times Correspondent
November 21, 2013 5:30 pm  • 

HAMMOND | After a one-year hiatus, the South Shore Air Show will take to the skies again in 2014 with Fair Oaks Farms in Newton County as the backdrop.

Speros Batistatos, president and CEO of the South Shore Convention and Visitors Authority, and Gary Corbett, CEO of Fair Oaks Farms, made the announcement at a news conference Thursday morning at the Indiana Welcome Center.

“This is the first air show in the nation to partner with a tourism attraction,” Batistatos said. “With the cancellation of the air show in Indianapolis, this will be the only air show in Indiana north of Indy.”

During the announcement, the air show’s new logo, Where Pigs Fly, featuring a pig sporting goggles and a patriotic aviator’s scarf, flashed on a screen, adding a touch of whimsy and illustrating the new direction the air show is taking.

Located on 33,000 acres, Fair Oaks Farms is an agri-tourism project that includes a dairy farm, the new Pig Adventure, crops and educational and entertaining activities for the whole family, Corbett said.

“We look forward to the challenge,” he said.

This new partnership between the SSCVA, Fair Oaks Farms and Wil Davis of the Gary Jet Center is part of the SSCVA staff’s goal “to make the air show bigger and better,” Batistatos said.

The Gary/Chicago International Airport again will be the staging area for the air show acts.

Sponsored by the city of Gary for its first six years, the air show took place along the shores of Lake Michigan at Marquette Park in Gary’s Miller neighborhood through 2012.

Admission to the show always had been free.

The SSCVA took over organizing and marketing the show in its seventh year and, starting in 2007, was one of the groups providing financial support.

The federal budget sequestration led to the cancellation of the 2013 South Shore Air Show because such acts as the Thunderbirds and Blue Angels were no longer available, Batistatos said.

“(These acts) are the big sizzle on the steak,” he said.

The cancellation also “provided an opportunity to sit down with the executive board to see if we could do things differently with new partners,” Batistatos said. “We’ve been working on this plan with Fair Oaks Farm for about two months.”

Gary Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson said Thursday the SSCVA’s decision to move to Fair Oaks Farms from Marquette Park “is understandable … and in the best financial interests of the organization.”

The mayor said one of her major concerns has been the “tremendous cost to the city of Gary” of past air shows at Marquette Park. Those costs have included police, fire and EMS services and park cleanup, she said.

Tentative dates for the 2014 South Shore Air Show are Thursday through Sunday, July 10-13.

A lot will depend on the kinds of acts that can be booked and when they are available, Batistatos said.

He and other SSCVA officials will attend the International Council of Airshows Inc. convention in Las Vegas in early December.

“We’ll be talking to all the acts,” Batistatos said. “As always we are going to place emphasis on air performance and civilian safety. We want acts that will perform and land safely and the same caliber of performers.”

Proposed additions to the air show include a car show, musical entertainment and a midway with food and vendor booths. There also may be special packages for hotels and admission to the Fair Oaks Farms attractions, said Nicki Mackowski-Gladstone, of the SSCVA.

Parking at Fair Oaks Farms for the South Shore Air Show will be $20. This will provide revenue to continue sponsoring the South Shore Air Show, Batistatos said.

The Fair Oaks Farms site should draw air show visitors from Lafayette, Indianapolis and Fort Wayne, Corbett said. New attractions are being added at Fair Oaks Farms and some, including a new restaurant, will open prior to the air show, he said.

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