DULUTH, Minn. (WCCO) — After being grounded last year because of the government’s sequestration, the U.S. Navy Blue Angels have returned to Minnesota.
They will be flying this weekend as one of the most popular performers in the Duluth Air Show.
“We want to get people excited about aviation, excited about doing better. That’s what the Blue Angels are all about, the pursuit of excellence,” Blue Angel pilot Lt. Ryan Chamberlain said.
As many as 500 airshows across the country apply for the act each year, but only 40 are selected.
“It’s a rare treat for Minnesotans to see the Blue Angels,” said Ryan Kern, organizer of the Duluth Air Show. “This year it is Duluth’s turn.”
For a while last year, no one knew if or when the Blue Angels would return to any airshow. The federal government’s spending cuts clipped their wings in 2013, canceling appearances.
“We missed that, we missed connecting with the community. And it’s not just us, it’s the military in general. The Air Force had the same issues as well as the Army,” Chamberlain said.
As a result, attendance at airshows suffered.
“You’re seeing a 30 to 40 percent decline in attendees if you don’t have those demonstration teams,” Kerns said.
But this year, the Blue’s break may be behind a boost in ticket sales. And organizers hope other acts will draw crowds as well, such as aerobatic pilot Michael Goulian and the Air Force’s F-22 Raptor.
“This will be the first time that any of us in northern Minnesota or Minnesota in general have ever seen the F-22 Raptor,” Kern said. “I would say 99 percent of the people in the Air Force have never seen the Raptor.”
The Duluth Air and Aviation Expo is held every two years and is the largest airshow in Minnesota. You can catch it August 23 and 24, rain or shine. Tickets can be found here.