Friday, August 17, 2012

TOP STORY >> Base gearing up for open house

Leader staff writer

This is the first year Little Rock Air Force Base will be allowed to thank businesses in a big way for their support of the air show, which will be held on Sept. 8 and 9.

Lt. Col. Mike Kirby, air show director, said that in previous years the base couldn’t put the names of businesses on promotional material due to regulations.

Kirby said the air show has experienced twice the response from sponsors than it did for the last air show, which was held in 2010.

The Air Force is spending $200,000 on the event, about half the budget it had for previous shows, he said.

Commercial sponsors — as of this week — are providing another $128,000.

A lot of work goes into the event that is expected to entertain 250,000 people and the director shared that process.

“We’re so proud of what we do and we’re lucky to have such a supportive community. It’s about the airmen and what airmen can do,” Kirby said.

The airmen attended classes in December to learn details of how to organize the event. They became certified through the International Air Shows Council.

December through May is spent asking local businesses and organizations for donations to fund the event.

Since shows are held every other year, new people have to be trained for each event because those who did it the last time have transferred or they were deployed, Kirby explained.

He said 175 airmen take care of every detail, from placing trash cans and chairs to marshalling the planes into place.

In April and May, preliminary work on the event begins, Kirby said.

Local emergency support service providers are contacted and an integrated response plan is practiced so that everyone is prepared for any safety situation that could arise during the show.

In June and July, a marketing plan is implemented. One component of that is a Save the Date Card the state Tourism Department places at rest stops throughout Arkansas.

Up until the show, the base negotiates with food vendors and builds tents. The program, the planes that will be used and details like building up piles of sandbags are also finalized.

The Blue Angels will put on the headlining performance. Another act to look forward to will be the Team Little Rock C-130 “Day in Afghanistan” capabilities exercise, Kirby said.

Officials are concerned about keeping people hydrated and cool. That is why the base is constructing “Four Acres of Shade,” the air expo center.

Airshow seating is $20 until the day of the show when they will be $30. There are 1,200 seats available for sale. To order tickets or for more information, visit

The gates open at 8:30 a.m. and the show starts at 10 a.m.