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Air show organizers prepare for crowd

September 03, 2010|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD
  • The Thunder over the Blue Ridge Air Show is scheduled for Labor Day weekend at Eastern West Virginia Regional Airport.
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MARTINSBURG, W.Va. -- Between 1,200 and 1,500 West Virginia National Guard members are helping with the Thunder Over the Blue Ridge Open House and Air Show this weekend at Eastern West Virginia Regional Airport, spokesman Lt. Col. Michael O. Cadle said.

From traffic control to parking and security, Cadle said Friday that uniformed guard members with the West Virginia Air National Guard's 167th Airlift Wing and 200 to 300 Army National Guard members from units elsewhere in the state were assigned to help with the event.

Cadle said Friday that West Virginia Gov. Joe Manchin is scheduled to take part this morning in opening ceremonies for the air show, which organizers expect will attract between 60,000 to 80,000 people over two days.

Gates open at 9 a.m., with opening ceremonies scheduled to start at 10:30 a.m.

While coolers are not allowed on the military base, Maj. Melissa Shade said people attending the air show will find plenty of food choices at 25 booths that will line the parking apron of the base.

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"We've got nachos, hamburgers, hot dogs, sausages, ice cream, sodas, beer, water, you name it, it's out there," Shade said Friday.

ATM machines also were brought in for the event.

Shade said more than 60 aircraft, including 30 on static display in one hangar, will be part of the air show.

The static display surrounds about 30 information booths about veterans' services as part of the Martinsburg Veterans Affairs Medical Center's 2010 Welcome Home American Heroes Celebration.

"The goal ... is to provide outreach and education to America's veterans so that they're informed about VA health care enrollment eligibility," said VAMC spokesman Kevin McIver, who said the air show provides a great opportunity to reach a large number of veterans.

The two-day event is free and there will be no charge for available parking, but organizers are encouraging visitors to donate $10 at the gate to benefit United Way of the Eastern Panhandle, the event's fiscal agent and underwriter.

Nic Diehl, vice chairman of the Thunder Over the Blue Ridge Inc., said the group sold out of $20 tickets to a "Friends of the Air Show" VIP chalet tent, which along with 30 tents for sponsors were set up along the show line.

"We were surprised that we sold (500) Saturday tickets a month and a half ago," Diehl said. "Sunday tickets have been sold out for a couple weeks."

Given the economic downturn, Diehl said the group initially was concerned about sponsorships, but ended up with more than 70 and most of them are local.

Among large sponsors, Chrysler announced this week that its Jeep division was bringing its "Jeep Rocks & Road Tour," a free test-drive, on- and off-road driving experience, to the air show.

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