Hammond Mayor Thomas McDermott Jr. is complaining about the South Shore Air Show moving to Fair Oaks Farms, in effect saying tourism efforts should be confined to Lake County's boundaries. Hogwash, we say.
McDermott's argument is that Lake County tax dollars are supporting an event in Newton County. But these dollars aren't from property taxes. Rather, they're from the innkeepers tax. Very little of that money is generated by Lake County residents.
Nor should the usual parochial rule apply here. The South Shore Convention and Visitors Authority is a regional organization, not limited to Lake County. The agency has support well beyond Lake County. For instance, the White Sox organization is among more than 200 paying supporters.
Second, the air show will draw people from all over. Where will they stay? Where will they buy gas and meals? The idea is to promote all of Northwest Indiana, which will result in helping businesses throughout the area.
The Marquette Park location drew people to Gary's beaches, but the lack of a single entry point meant the city could not charge admission to recoup the extra cost of police and fire protection, along with additional park cleanup.
Then there's the issue with daring flights over heavily populated areas, along with being so close to air traffic in and out of O'Hare and Midway airports.
Fair Oaks Farms is an ideal place. It is a nationally known tourist attraction, and it has plenty of open space that was not available along the Lake Michigan shoreline.
This new location gives the air show an opportunity to charge admission, in the form of a parking fee, to cover costs better. The event will expand to include amusements, vendors and more -- further enhancing the experience for visitors.
The Gary/Chicago International Airport will remain the staging area for the air show acts.
South Shore CVA President and CEO Speros Batistatos said his agency will work on putting together hotel packages from U.S. 30 to Jasper County. That will help sell the region for staying a few days, rather than driving over for a one-day visit that doesn't put heads in beds here.
Despite McDermott's protestations, moving the air show makes sense. Let's see this show get off the ground.