Just weeks after the Lollapalooza music festival drew over 270,000 music fans to Grant Park, the 53rd annual Chicago Air and Water Show will roar in along the lakefront. The city is expecting over 9 times the number of attendees versus Lollapalooza as over 2 million people usually pack the lakefront over the two day show. This year’s show is taking place this weekend, Saturday, August 20th and Sunday, August 21st and will begin at 10 am and end around 3 pm.
The Chicago Air and Water Show is the largest FREE air and water exhibition of its kind in the United States as there is no admission charge to attend. Show center is always at North Avenue Beach with great views available along the whole lakefront, mainly from Oak Street Beach all the way up to Fullerton. Crowds also usually pack Ohio Street Beach and even Navy Pier, offering slightly more distant views, but still providing for an exciting viewing experience.
The first Chicago Air and Water Show was held in 1959, with an operating budget of only $88. In 1989, the City of Chicago incorporated sponsor participation, offsetting a majority of the cost of the shows. The presenting sponsors for the 53rd annual show are companies like Shell, Boeing, Hyatt, Oracle and American Airlines. Media sponsors include The Chicago Tribune and ABC 7 Chicago. UL is the official safety partner of the show.
For those hoping to see the air show, but not wanting to deal with the millions of people on the main days, thousands of people will also make use of the air show performers practice sessions on Friday to catch a glimpse of show. These practice sessions offer people who want to watch some of the acts avoid the huge crowds and traffic that are usually associated with the main event on Saturday and Sunday and still see the various performer’s full routines.
As part of the water show this year, the Chicago Fire Department will showcase Engine Co. 2, the brand new fireboat named the ‘Christopher Wheatley’. Chris was a member of the Chicago Fire Department who was tragically killed in the line of duty on August 9th, 2010 while battling a fire in Chicago’s west loop.
This year’s military headline acts are the US Air Force Thunderbirds, US Army Golden Knights Parachute Team and the US Navy Leap Frogs Parachute Team. Other military acts slated to perform include the US Air Force Heritage Flight, which is a formation flyover of past and present Air Force aircraft honoring the years of service of the many veterans and current military personnel as well as demonstrating the advancement in military aviation. Along with the heritage flight, the B-1B Lancer Bomber, KC-135 Stratotanker, C-17 Transport, F-16 Falcon, T-38 and T-6 military training aircraft, US Navy F-18 Super Hornet demo team and the UH-60 Blackhawk Helicopters. In addition, the US Coast Guard Air/Sea Rescue unit and the US Air Force Reserve ParaRescue Wing will conduct demonstrations of their skills simulating rescue operations on the lake.
There are also multiple civilian performers that will be performing as well. Sean D. Tucker, Dave Dacy, Bill Stein and Matt Chapman will all perform solo aerobatic performances. The civilian act are headlined by the Aeroshell Aerobatic Team, along with the Lima Lima Flight Crew, show membership includes pilots from the Chicago area.
Visitors to the lakefront are highly encouraged by the City of Chicago to consider public transportation. With the air show drawing to a close at 3 pm, and the Chicago Cubs beginning a game at Wrigley Field at 3:15 pm, traffic is expected to be heavy and may cause some delays leaving the lakefront.
If you do not want to deal with the crowds, or just can’t make it downtown for the events, there are multiple ways to catch some of the action from home. A play-by-play of the air show will be broadcast on the radio and can be heard on 780 AM and 105.9 FM. ABC 7 Chicago will broadcast a show featuring the highlights of the Air and Water show. Called, ‘Chicago’s Top Guns’, the thirty minute highlight show will be hosted by Jerry Taft and Tracy Butler and will air on Sunday, August 21 at 10:35 pm. CBS 2 Chicago and WBBM radio will also host live video streaming and pictures on their website as the show progresses. The online CBS coverage can be found at http://airandwater.cbslocal.com/.
Finally, the Chicago Air and Water Show will also provide highlights, updates and pictures via Twitter by following @airandwatershow.