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Air show set to fly in Martinsburg again

December 10, 2005|By CANDICE BOSLEY

martinsburg@herald-mail.com

MARTINSBURG, W.VA. -

The Spirit of America Over Martinsburg Air Show will be held again next year, with the organizer saying he wants to have more activities for children and bring in more "war birds" - planes involved in military action.

Nicolas Diehl, who organized last year's show at Eastern West Virginia Regional Airport and will organize it again in 2006, said half of the 25,000 to 30,000 people who attended this year's show in September were children.

Although there were a few activities geared toward younger visitors, Diehl hopes to add more for the show next year, including rides in simulators, climbing walls, more physical contact with planes and talks in schools with pilots.

Also next year, more planes involved in military conflicts, including World War II, Korea and Vietnam, will be present, which Diehl said could appeal to the number of military retirees in the area.

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On Thursday, the Airport Authority unanimously decided to hold the show again next year, with the event scheduled for Saturday, Sept. 23 and Sunday, Sept. 24.

Two acts already have been booked, and Diehl said he hopes to book some of the more popular acts from this year, as well as some new innovative acts.

Given the success of this year's show, Diehl said it's possible larger acts can be booked.

Diehl also hopes to have on-the-ground planes on display, but said keeping the number to less than 100 is important. Otherwise, it can be overwhelming, he said.

"We'd like to get even better that what we did" in 2005, Diehl said of the show in general.

This year's show was the first one held in Martinsburg. The International Council of Air Shows recognized the show on its Web site as the second-best of more than 1,000 smaller shows that attracted crowds of less than 50,000.

"We were extremely excited to get that kind of recognition," Diehl said.

The show also was the subject of a one-page article in the bimonthly magazine World Air Show News, which described the venue as "an area of green hills, the Potomac River and history so rich one can feel its presence at every turn," according to Diehl.

With no other air shows in the area, Diehl said the show attracted visitors from the four-state region and Washington, D.C.

Because some spent the weekend in the area, Diehl said the show is a chance to provide "a shot in the arm" to the economy, as well as an opportunity to showcase West Virginia.

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