GOSHEN — Sunny skies and warmer temperatures seemed to have been the perfect accompaniment to drawing thousands of spectators to America's Freedom Fest on Saturday.
Aviation fans started lining the fences at the Goshen Municipal Airport for the 2019 show as soon as the gates opened at 1 p.m. Saturday.
The crowd grew as the day continued. Some people lined up their chairs throughout the airport yard while others strolled through the airport grounds where Warbirds and other static aircraft were on display for attendees to view up close before the air show started.
Performances scheduled for the show included a P-51 Heritage Flight, the Shockwave Jet Truck, Susan Dacy in Big Red, Sky Soldiers Helicopter demonstrations and skydivers followed by a large fireworks display.
The F-22 Raptor from the U.S. Air Force served as the headliner. The show included a 20-minute flyover with music and narration.
While waiting for the air show to begin, many attendees, both familiar faces and newcomers, said they didn’t have a particular aircraft they were looking forward to seeing, but saw the event as an opportunity learn about the aircraft displayed and spend time with family.
“We’ve come to this event a couple of times and it never disappoints,” said Lindsi Knigga, of Goshen, who came with a host of family members. “It’s a great event that helps celebrate our freedom and make us feel very patriotic.”
Another visitor, Maddie Hawkins, 14, said she enjoyed getting on a U.S. Air Force helicopter where she was able to learn what the various buttons are used for.
“It was really cool, and the pilot was really nice,” she said.
America's Freedom Fest, now in its third year, was formed by the merging of the Freedom Fest and Celebrate America in 2017, said Gregg Lanzen, president of America's Freedom Fest.
According to Lanzen, the groups got together in 2016 after Celebrate America decided the event had become too big for its former site at the Black Squirrel Course after 27 years.
Lanzen said that he approached Goshen Airport Manager Randy Sharkey about moving the event to the airport. Sharkey, Lanzen said, brought his own ideas about reviving the air show the facility hosted, Freedom Fest Goshen, which ended back in 2009 during the recession but had continued with the same board as Rotors and Ribs.
“We took our two boards and combined them together and they focus on the airshow acts, and we focus on honoring the veterans and together we pull our resources together for the fireworks and this is what it is now,” he said.
The event features between 35-40 aircraft, according to Lanzen.
The day includes 200 volunteers. Organizers said they anticipate the event will draw 30,000 to 35,000 attendees throughout the day.
“This is a more conservative area by and large and people tend to be more sensitive to patriotism and things like that,” Lanzen said when asked what he believes contributes to the event’s large turnout. “And so we think with the program we plan like bringing in military aircraft and really celebrating patriotism just draws people.”