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MacDill might resume AirFest

The event has been canceled the past two years because of security concerns.

By CORY SCHOUTEN
Published July 30, 2003

TAMPA - One of Tampa's most popular annual traditions could hit the skies again in April after a two-year hiatus.

MacDill Air Force Base commander Col. David "Tanker" Snyder raised that prospect Tuesday at a lunchtime meeting of the Interbay Peninsula Partnership.

He told community leaders that MacDill is looking at the possibility of bringing back AirFest, a two-day open house at MacDill filled with fly-bys and aircraft displays.

The event, which annually attracts more than 750,000 people over two days, has been canceled the past two years because of security concerns after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

Al Austin, who heads a MacDill support committee for the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce, said AirFest is an opportunity for people to appreciate the base and the military.

"It's one of the greatest shows you can ever see," said Austin, who also chairs the Hillsborough County Aviation Authority board.

MacDill spokesman Ken Hoffman said in an e-mail that no final decision has been made on whether to hold AirFest, but potential dates are April 3 and 4.

He said issues the base must consider include availability of flying demonstration teams, post-Sept. 11 security concerns and base construction projects.

Hoffman said the base has considered holding the air show each year since the terrorist attacks, and this year is no different. If MacDill decides AirFest is a go, the show would be held at the base.

"AirFest is just one way we like to give back to the community by giving the taxpayers an up-close look at their military in action," Hoffman said.

Anne Childers, who works in South Tampa and attended Tuesday's meeting at Aldo's Italian Restaurant, said she had heard talk that AirFest would return next year. She said the event is a great opportunity to see how the military works.

"It's a wonderful, exciting time here in the bay," she said. "People come from everywhere."

The most recent air show at MacDill was in April 2001. AirFest that year included F-16s, KC-10As and 70 other aircraft on display, a parachute team from MacDill and fly-bys by KC 135s, the Red Baron Squadron and the Blue Angels.

- Cory Schouten can be reached at 226-3401 or cschouten@sptimes.com

[Last modified July 30, 2003, 01:33:02]


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