After eight straight air shows, the city announced Tuesday that it will take a one-year break from the annual riverfront event.
Tim Ross, public events director, said programming is re-evaluated every year with significant input by the Owensboro City Commission members.
“In talking with the City Commission, they decided they wanted to try something different in 2020,” Ross said.
Commissioners Pam Smith-Wright, Larry Conder, Jeff Sanford and Larry Maglinger were all in agreement about postponing the air show in favor of looking at other options.
Possibilities being discussed for 2020 are bringing back hydroplane racing to the Ohio River, celebrating the relighting of the Glover H. Cary "Blue" Bridge and adding Saturday night downtown events throughout the summertime.
Maglinger said he was the one who proposed the hydroplane idea as another way to attract a large crowd similar to the one drawn by the air show, which took place in September over three days this year.
With a larger number of entries and shorter times between races, Maglinger said powerboat racing has improved since leaving Owensboro’s riverfront in 1979.
“Our river is just fantastic for boat racing; we used to do it, and it's different now,” Maglinger said. “There’re 40-some boats now, and with the old ones, you only had about 12 and two of them might finish. … But that’s one event that could be free and bring in thousands of people.”
The inaugural air show coincided with the grand opening of the redesigned Smothers Park on Aug. 25, 2012. Its success prompted the city to make it an annual event.
When the air show returns in 2021, the U.S. Navy's Blue Angels will again headline the Owensboro Air Show. They were part of the 2018 lineup, which drew an estimated 70,000 people over the course of the three-day event.
However, the Blue Angels, the oldest formal aerobatic team in the world, have to be booked at least two years in advance.
Conder said he likes the idea of replacing the air show for one year with something fresh.
“We know that the air show is extremely attractive, especially when you have the Blue Angels; they’re just a rock star when it comes to having an air show. We didn’t have the Angels here this year. The air show was good but not nearly as great as when the Angels were here.”
The air shows do come with an expense to the city.
Ross said the cost has gone up to about $190,000. The city subsidizes most of the air show's expense but does recruit sponsors to help offset some of the cost.
He added that the city will likely announce what will be replacing the air show early in 2020.
“We’ve had those discussions with the commission on whether they want to save some money for a year if they know the air show is going to be more expensive the next year,” Ross said. “Or if they want to invest all of that and produce multiple different events or a particular event to replace it.”
Don Wilkins, email@example.com, 270-691-7299