Friday, February 4, 2011

Blue Angels set for St. George - (from The Spectrum)

Brian Ahern • bahern@thespectrum.com • Published: January 11. 2011 4:55AM - Last modified: January 11. 2011 6:03AM

ST. GEORGE - The U.S. Navy Blue Angels will take flight over St. George, headlining the area's first Thunder Over Utah Air Show in March of 2012.

World-famous for their precision formation flying in their six distinctive blue and gold F-18 Hornets, the Blue Angels are expected to draw a large crowd.

Air Show Director Kevin Walsh said they could bring approximately 50,000 spectators and more than $2.5 million to the area during a two-day period.

"It will do a lot of things for the city," he said. "Even if the general spectator doesn't know anything about air shows they will know the Blue Angels. I don't think there's anyone more famous that you can get on your schedule."

Herb Gillen, who will handle advertising for the show, said that high profile couldn't help but benefit the community.

"There's a strong demographic that would support an air show," he said. "Things like hotel rooms, restaurants and other types of retail economic benefits would take place for the area over the week."

City spokesman Marc Mortensen said the city has worked closely with organizers to make the event a hit. If that happens, he added, the area could look forward to more in the future.

"If it works out we would definitely consider turning it into a larger event on an annual basis," he said. "That would be something that would be different and a good fit."

Walsh added he's also rooting for the event's success and the possibility of turning it into a yearly attraction.

"The first year will give us a good gauge on what the interest level is," he said. "If things are successful we would love to make it an annual event."

The show will be the first of its kind in the area and will take advantage of the improved aviation facilities provided by the new St. George Municipal Airport. Unlike the old airport, Mayor Daniel McArthur said the new airport's 9,300-square-foot, jet-capable runway would be perfect for hosting a collection of fighter jets.

"This covers the aviation side that we haven't been able to do before," he said. "It really sets us apart."

Though the Blue Angels will headline, the two-day show will also include a variety of other acts. Top-tier civilian and military performers, classic warbirds and static displays will also be part of the show.

Tickets are expected to go on sale by March 2011 at http://www.thunderoverutah.com/.

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