Thunderbirds in Flathead in August 2014 Just minutes from Gaynor Ranch
After last summer’s appearance by the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds was canceled due to federal government spending cuts, the Flathead Valley is once again part of the flight plan for the elite air squadron.
The Thunderbirds will be in town for the 2014 Mountain Madness air show Aug. 30-31, falling on Labor Day weekend for both the United States and Canada.
Capt. Jason Curtis, a Flathead High School graduate and member of the Thunderbirds, will be among the featured pilots as the No. 6 pilot, called the Opposing Solo.
Chris Parson, vice president of the Kalispell Chamber of Commerce, was in Las Vegas last week at the International Council of Air Shows, meeting with officials of the Thunderbird flight demonstration team and lining up civilian acts.
“It’s toward the tail end of tourism season and things are starting to slow down,” he said. “This will obviously impact all of the hotels in the area and be a big economic boost. We’ll really see an influx of people.”
The Chamber, which is working with Glacier Park International Airport and the Federal Aviation Administration, is anticipating about 40,000 spectators for the two days of the 2014 show.
The last air show in the Flathead Valley in 2005 featured the U.S. Navy Blue Angels. That event drew more than 30,000 spectators.
Parson will direct the 2014 air show. He was part of the 1999 air show in the Flathead Valley and was involved in similar events through his career with the Marines.
He said even though Mountain Madness is more than eight months off, it’s never too early for volunteers to get involved. Some of the money made through ticket sales and concessions will be donated back to the volunteering organizations.
“One of the things that is a huge factor in creating a successful air show is that it requires quite a few volunteers, from running concessions to parking to just keeping the air show operating,” he said.
He said there are about 25 committees that will be responsible for different aspects of the event.
It will be a busy time for the Chamber.
The Chamber-sponsored Montana Dragon Boat Festival for 2014 is already set for its third run on Flathead Lake Sept. 13-14, just two weeks after the air show.
“After two years the dragon boats are pretty established and know what they need to do,” Parson said. “And this isn’t our first air show, so we have the resident knowledge.”
Parson said the Chamber is confident that the air show will happen as planned this year. In late October, U.S. Defense Sec. Chuck Hagel announced that air shows are resuming along with military band concerts, ceremonial unit appearances and other outreach events.
According to ABC News, the resumption of the air shows is possible because of a 45 percent reduction in the number of military outreach events from last year, which will save $104 million in this fiscal year and $1 billion over the next 10 years.
Reporter Heidi Gaiser may be reached at 758-4439 or by email at email@example.com.
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