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Air show has smooth landing

Attendance was down about 10 percent for both the 2013 Oregon International Air Show and Washington County Fair this year.

Because both events were held just across the street from each other for the first time this year, organizers say the drop may have been caused by worries over additional traffic congestion and noise from the air show interfering with the fair — issues that did not seem to actually occur.by: TIMES PHOTO: CHASE ALLGOOD - Greg Colyer amazes Oregon International Air Show crowds in his T-33 Shooting Star that showcases the capability of this Korean War-era two-seat version of the P-80 jet fighter.

“We’re disappointed that attendance was down and think it was caused by the perceptions of problems that didn’t happen,” said Leah Perkins-Hagele, director of the Washington County Fair Complex.

Air show spokesman Steve Callaway said the cancellation of the U.S. Navy Blue Angels may have undermined its attendance. The popular aerobatic team was forced to drop out because of federal budget cuts.by: TIMES PHOTO: CHASE ALLGOOD - Mike Wiskus flies his Lucas Oil Pitts in the Oregon International Air Show. This 310 horsepower machine allows him to perform spins and flips to entertain the crowd.

“It’s one thing to have never announced the Blue Angels. It’s another thing to have them and lose them. It’s more disappointing,” said Callaway.

According to Perkins-Hagele, the turnstile count at the fair was 100,096 people over its four-day run. That’s 9 percent less than last year, the first drop since 2008.

Callaway said attendance at the air show was around 60,000 visitors over three days. The Friday show, which features a fireworks display, was the most popular day with 21,340 people in attendance. Saturday drew 19,425 and Sunday stands at about 17,000, a number that’s likely to increase when all tickets are counted.

This year’s show was headlined by the Patriots Jet Team, which has drawn around 75,000 visitors in the past, Callaway said.

Zack McDowall attended his first Oregon International Air Show on Sunday. Munching on a sugary treat a full two hours before the show was set to begin, Zack said he was excited about “seeing all the different kinds of airplanes” that would be flying and on display at the Hillsboro Airport.

Zack was accompanied on his walk through the displays by Steven Friese, a family friend. For Friese, 64, it was the 10th time he’d come to a show. A pilot with a small plane at the Scappoose Airport, Friese said he keeps returning because, “They always put on a good show.” Although Freise was disappointed the U.S. Navy Blue Angels had cancelled because of federal budget cuts, he was still looking forward to other performers. “I’m just interested in planes,” he explained.

Leo Lotito, a traffic officer with the Bend Police Department, agrees traffic was not particularly bad over the weekend. Lotito and three other Bend traffic officers came over Thursday to help man control stops at intersections and patrol around the airport. Lotito said the visit was part of a regular exchange with the Hillsboro Police Department, which sends traffic officers to Bend to help out with the annual Bicycle Classic road race held around there.

“Hillsboro really knows what it’s doing. They’ve got the situation well under control,” said Lotito.



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