GARY | The region’s air show will return to the lakeshore next year, according to plans announced Tuesday by Gary Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson at the Marquette Park Pavilion.
“We are looking forward to bringing what we know to be a great tourist attraction back to the shores of Lake Michigan,” Freeman-Wilson said of the air show, which has been dormant for two years after federal budget sequestration in 2013 forced military participants to drop out, and rain washed out the air show’s proposed move to Fair Oak Farms this year.
Plans call for the show to be held July 10-11 over the beaches of Gary, with Marquette Park as the centerpiece.
Freeman-Wilson said a partnership with the businesses involved in the Gary/Chicago International Airport puts the show on sound financial footing.
“We are particularly excited by the partners from the airport,” Freeman-Wilson said, including the Gary Jet Center, Sage-Popovich Inc. and B. Coleman Aviation.
Wil Davis, Gary Jet Center president and CEO, said it will take a “team effort to make this happen,” but he assured that “it will occur.”
“It’s been a success every time,” he said of the show.
Freeman-Wilson said Tuesday a budget is still being finalized, but in addition to the airport partnership, funding will come from “a variety of sources so we are not (using) property tax dollars.”
She said revenue from parking will be collected, as in past years, and Gary is investigating collecting revenue from attendees who park remotely and walk to the beach, though Gary residents will have access for free. She also said tourism dollars the city receives could help back the show.
Chuck Hughes, Gary Chamber of Commerce executive director, said members have talked to him about being vendors at the show. He said others in the business community are looking forward to the show, and he hoped to generate support regionally.
City Councilman Ronald Brewer said the return of the air show proves Gary is making the progress so often discussed.
“You don’t have to just talk about it anymore,” he said. “We’re moving in the right direction.”
From 2007 until this year, the show was managed by the South Shore Convention and Visitors Authority, which lost about $150,000 a year on it, according to Speros Batistatos, its president and CEO.
Batistatos said Tuesday he supports the mayor’s efforts, and said the airport businesses are the “appropriate group of people” with which to partner for financial backing.
Freeman-Wilson said the city will work with the SSCVA on marketing and advertising the show. The city and SSCVA are also coordinating on an April meeting of the African-American Travel Association in Northwest Indiana, Freeman-Wilson said.
Meanwhile, Rudy Malnati, director of Midwest Air Show Inc. and manager of the South Shore air show since its inception, said at Tuesday’s news conference he’s optimistic the civilian and military performers who’ve performed here regularly in the past will return.
“We’re looking to bring back the same show we’ve done in the past,” he said.
Malnati said he’s been working on lining up performers since discussion about the move to Gary began about 30 days ago, and that schedules should be finalized in mid-December.
“It’s a great beach to do an air show,” he said.