BARKSDALE AFB, La. (KTAL/KMSS) Even though Sunday’s Defenders of Liberty Air and Space Show at Barksdale Air Force Base started an hour early due to predicted severe weather rolling in, it had to be canceled just before noon, after weather conditions began ramping up.
But Saturday’s show, which kicked off with an entirely new setup due to COVID-19 precautions, was a howling success.
With the theme “100 Years on Target,” organizers found a way for folks to social distance and still enjoy the five-hour show, which consisted of about 40 performers and 20 acts that turned the sunny Bossier skies into aviation’s equivalent of a highly-choreographed Baryshnikov ballet.
Last year, the airshow was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but this year everyone got their own parking spot with a tailgate area specifically for their vehicle. Adjustments were made to accommodate attendees.
And attendees were just glad to have the Air Show back in place.
“At least we can still get to come out and watch these planes do what they do best…fly around,” said Michael Audelos, a civilian who works on base.
Another attendee, Amy Sutton, liked the new setup. “You can pull in with your car, have your ice chest, have your chairs. We’re close enough together but we’re far enough apart that we can tailgate and have a good time,” Sutton said.
Sutton said she usually comes every year, but this Saturday was special because her kids were here to spend Mother’s day weekend with her.
The tailgating situation and social distancing didn’t seem to put a damper on attendance, according to USAF Capt. Christopher Sullivan, chief of Public Affairs at BAFB.
“We had 7, 500 available tickets for Saturday, and by mid-morning 287 tickets were left,” Sullivan said.
Not everyone enjoyed the new setup, however, which was put in place to keep the defenders on the base as well as the community COVID-safe, according to Air Show director Major Daniel Dreier said Thursday.
Emmett Reeves, who has been going to these air shows for the last five years, was one of those people, saying the drive-in set-up felt a bit “surreal.”
“… I used to see the planes, they’re not here. Jets… people from all over the country coming in showing their military aircraft,” Reeves said.
But, Reeves added that considering how things were once completely shut down, Saturday’s setup gave a little bit of hope. “This coming back slow is actually perfect to start the new year off with the air show here at Barksdale,” he said.
Drew Davis, a 20-year-old who was sworn into the US Air Force last month and hopes to one day be stationed at Barksdale, said those who didn’t come missed the boat. He said should have come because it was such a good time.
Sullivan said there was excitement on both sides of the barriers, both from the spectators and the pilots, who love to showcase their skills and the performance of their aircraft at Flight shows around the country.
“It was an exceptional show, and we are looking forward to an even better show in 2023,” Sullivan said.