Planes of all sizes and from all eras took to the sunny skies over Great Bend Saturday in an aerial acrobatic display as the Great Bend Airport Airfest returned to the Golden Belt.
On the ground and in the sky, attendees to the Airfest had an opportunity to live aviation history from its infancy to the present.
The warm, pleasant weather for Saturday’s provided a perfect backdrop for 12 performers to take to the skies during the Saturday afternoon show.
Nearly every type of aircraft imaginable wowed the throngs of eager spectators as, one by one, they took to the skies over Barton County.
Performing aircraft included everything from World War I-era biplanes, to World War II-era fighters and bombers from both the United States and Soviet Union, to more modern fighter planes and ultra-light airplanes. In addition, a helicopter offered rides to attendees throughout the day.
One highlight of the afternoon’s show was the U.S. Army Golden Knights parachute team. A team of seven U.S. Army jumpers dazzled the crowd with smoke and choreographed aerial acrobatics.
But the show was not only entertainment in the air. On the ground, presenters with planes from several historical eras offered Airfest attendees a chance to learn about both the past and the future of aviation in the Golden Belt and beyond.
Christina Hayes, Great Bend Convention and Visitors Bureau director and community coordinator, praised turnout for Saturday’s events. Weather, she said, was perfect for Saturday’s show. She was grateful for the widespread community support through turnout, donation, and sponsorships, which allowed them to put on such a large scale event at a family-friendly cost.
“What’s really impressive about this is that these are nationally known performers,” Hayes said. “If you would go to the same show into Topeka or Kansas City it’s going to cost you $35-$50. Here it’s $10, we’re trying affordable. We appreciate those who come out and support us.”
Great Bend Airport Manager Martin Miller also praised the volunteers who helped make the show successful.
Airfest organizers also took the opportunity to recognize U.S. military service veterans Saturday night with a special Veterans Recognition Ceremony, featuring the National Anthem sung by Jadynce Jean and a dedication speech from U.S. Senator Jerry Moran. The ceremony was followed by a night show featuring many of the same aircraft which performed during the day, however Royce said a few of the daytime performers were not certified for night flight, and did not perform Saturday night.
“It’s a good chance for us to say thank you to all the veterans,” Hayes said.
As part of the evening ceremony, the City of Great Bend dedicated a sign to Moran, whose was born in Great Bend, as well.
On Friday, the Airfest hosted schools after waiting out some early morning showers and thunderstorms. Unfortunately, Hayes said, the torrential rain arrived shortly after the kids, though she said a couple of planes were able to take to the skies for the kids after the weather cleared. Though there was some weather impact to Friday’s performances, Airfest Air Boss Russell Royce said all the air runs that needed to take place Friday were able to go on.
The Airfest concludes today with gates opening at 10 a.m., and more aerial acrobatics running from noon-3 p.m. at the Great Bend Airport.