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The Gary/Chicago International Airport's new expanded runway officially opened Thursday. The $174.1 million runway expansion lengthened the main runway to 8,900 feet from its former 7,000 feet, allowing it to handle larger planes.

The airport has scheduled July 10 invitation-only "opening ceremony" on the day before the Gary Air Show.

The day before the air show is usually set aside for viewing the arrival of acts like the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds. But this year, the airport plans to gather 150 high-ranking public officials" for a news conference, tour and lunch, according to airport officials.

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The opening ceremony will commemorate a transformational initiative city and region officials hope will have long-lasting economic benefits for Gary and Northwest Indiana.

The airport is seeking sponsorships ranging from $2,500 to $10,000 to help pay for the opening ceremony, according to airport officials.

The Gary Air Show returns to Gary after a two-year absence.

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