NAS Kingsville thinks out-of-the-box for record attendance at “Wings Over South Texas” Air Show
By Jon Gagné, NAS Kingsville Public Affairs
Budgetary restraints aside, the U.S. Navy Blue Angels returned to the skies over South Texas this weekend for the bi-annual “Wings Over South Texas” Air Show at NAS Kingsville. “And by initial estimates, perfect weather and dazzling aerobatic performances led to record-setting attendance for the air station.
“I have no doubt we had record attendance,” said NAS Kingsville Commanding Officer Capt. Christopher Misner. “After hosting nearly 80,000 spectators on Saturday, we knew it was going to be a great weekend. Turns out, it was even better than we’d hoped for.”
Early accounts for Sunday’s show put attendance at nearly 65,000 spectators. Add that to Saturday’s show, and Friday’s community events in Kingsville that included a Pep Rally at Texas A&M University-Kingsville with nearly 7,000 children on hand, a practice show with more than 1,000 JROTC students in attendance, and about 1,500 people at the “Meet the Performers” event at the King Ranch Museum in downtown Kingsville and the record-setting total breaks the 150,000 mark.
“I couldn’t be more pleased with the efforts of my air show team and our community partners for going above and beyond to make this show a huge success,” Misner added. “And I’d like to personally thank all of the people who came to our air station to enjoy this great show. I have always said that great partners are force multipliers and that is certainly the case in Kingsville. This show is a win-win for the base and local community and we should be proud of the effort that our team put forward.”
The NAS Kingsville team worked on a very short timetable to get ready for the show. Set-up on the flightline didn’t begin until late Thursday, following the Blue Angels arrival. Sailor-power, aided by about 40 Training Air Wing TWO flight students, carried the bulk of the workload. MWR staff members coordinated the set-up of the Midway and KidZone.
By Saturday morning, the air station was ready to open its gates to the public, and from 8 a.m. on, traffic was non-stop. By about noon, traffic on Highway 77 began to back-up, due in part to the on-going construction on the highway, and, more people than expected heading to the show.
The weekend weather forecast could have had a lot to do with the number of attendees – blue skies, a light breeze and temperatures in the low 80’s had a lot to do with the turnout, as well as the return to South Texas by the Blue Angels. Deputy Air Operations Officer Patrick Paddock four months ago boldly predicted sunny skies and temperatures in the low 80’s for air show weekend.
"This was by far the biggest Saturday and Sunday crowds we have ever had at the NAS Kingsville Air Show of the four that I have been a part of,” Paddock stated. “Being the first Naval Air Station to conduct an air show in 2014, post sequestration, being under completely new logistical and financial rules presented unique challenges. Overcoming those challenges was particularly difficult, which is why the outcome is so satisfying."
Paddock added that now that the show is over, base personnel are finding it difficult to re-adjust to their regular routines.
"Everyone is exhausted. I suspect it will be another week before we get the soreness out. I don't think most of the people who come to something like this would believe that the entire event was set-up, executed, maintained each day, cleaned up and broken down by only 136 enlisted Sailors, 40 flight students and about 25 civilian counterparts. But that’s the truth. It was truly a monumental effort!"
Performers for the 2014 show included the U.S. Navy Blue Angels; Randy Ball and his MiG 17F; Greg Colyer and his “Ace Maker” T-33 Shooting Star and former Navy pilot Justin Lewis and his FLS MircroJet. The Disabled American Veterans’ Flight Team brought in the B-25 Mitchell Bomber, as did the Confederate Air Force.
Aerobatic performers included World Aerobatic Champion Rob Holland; Andrew Wright and his Carbon Fiber G202; Tiger Air Shows and their twin YAK 55’s; and Jan Collmer and his Fina 300A. Skydive South Texas served as the jump team for the weekend’s shows. Announcer Matt Jolley kept the crowd informed throughout the weekend and Dave Shultz Air Shows handled the logistics.
Static displays included something for every member of the family. The Patriot Guard and Green Knights motorcycle clubs were on hand, as were the King Ranch, the Kingsville Fire Department and Volunteer Firefighters, classic cars, local attractions, health and safety booths, and a whole lot more.
The air show got a huge kick-off at Texas A&M University-Kingsville on March 28 with the annual Air Show Pep Rally. More than 7,000 students from throughout South Texas turned out for the event –- including school bands and cheerleaders, with both groups playing a role in the event.
Friday evening, Kleberg County and the City of Kingsville welcomed nearly 1,500 people to the King Ranch Museum for the “Meet the Performers” event. Free food, music and the chance to meet the performers –- including members of the Blue Angels –- proved to be the recipe for success. There were also more than 1,100 NJROTC students who attended the Friday practice show.
When the weekend finally did arrive, the performers took control with 14 aviation acts on the card. And each performer stepped-up their acts because of the record crowds.
“I thoroughly enjoyed participating in this air show,” said aerobatic performer Andrew Wright after Sunday’s show. “This was my first trip to NAS Kingsville for Wings Over South Texas, and I was very impressed with the base and the local community. I’d say this was one of the best air shows ever.”
Six months of planning went in to the show, and when it came time to launch, everything worked like clockwork and no major incidents were reported.
“Our NAS Kingsville Security Forces integrated with a host of local law enforcement agencies to meet our mission of force protection for the show,” said Ensign Carlos Jones, NASK Force Protection Officer.
Included were the Kleberg County Sheriff’s Office, the Kingsville Police Department, the Joint Task Force, Texas Office of Public Safety, Texas Department of Transportation, and the Customs and Border Patrol Command of Kingsville. Military support was provided by Naval Security Force Reserve Harlingen, Naval Security Force Reserve Corpus Christi, and Naval Security Force Reserve Base Forth Worth.
“As a team we worked together to ensure the safety of the installation and the public without any major incidents,” Jones added. “I’d like to thank all of our participating agencies for the resources and support they provided; without their support we could have not been as successful as we were.”
Smith added that there were a number of Security MVP's who worked long and hard to put their security plan together, including MAC Michael Hill, MA1 John Eaton, MA1 William Peoples, and MA1 Andrew Smith.
There were rock stars from other departments, too, including Air Operations, MWR, Supply Fuels, Emergency Management, L-3, the Branch Health Clinic and more. Add to that, more than 300 volunteers from the local community each day working the vendor booths, and a host of folks sponsoring community information booths and static displays, and you can see why the 2014 Wings Over South Texas Air Show was a huge success.
Now, it’s on to the 2016 show …. but there are big shoes to fill.