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Airshows: ‘Follow everyone in’

Sun ’n Fun attendance shocks everyone<

Aviation enthusiasts from all over the country gathered in Lakeland, Florida, April 13 through 18 at the Lakeland Linder International Airport to celebrate their shared passion for flight in true Florida fashion.
The Aeroshell Aerobatic Team performs in the night airshow (top left); a P–51 Mustang flies in formation with a pair of F–22 Raptors (top right); a Beechcraft T–34 Mentor taxies to the runway (bottom).
The Aeroshell Aerobatic Team performs in the night airshow (top left); a P–51 Mustang flies in formation with a pair of F–22 Raptors (top right); a Beechcraft T–34 Mentor taxies to the runway (bottom).

Beautiful blue skies, calm winds, and warm temperatures welcomed the crowd back after COVID-19 restrictions canceled general aviation events in 2020, including Sun ’n Fun and EAA AirVenture in Oshkosh, Wisconsin.

John “Lites” Leenhouts, Sun ’n Fun president and CEO, told AOPA Editor Kollin Stagnito that he was “ecstatic” over the attendance at the 47th annual event. “This is absolutely unbelievable,” Leenhouts said. “We never, ever expected to have this large of a turnout; it may be a record-setting event.”

This after cancelation of the 2020 event and consideration just two months prior to this year’s to reconsider even putting on the annual show. The staff had anticipated a 25-percent reduction in attendance but were proven wrong. Camping sites sold out, the event staff had to add two more parking areas, and a record number of aircraft stayed from Monday through the conclusion on the show on Saturday. “We moved the cows and opened an additional seven to eight acres to accommodate campers,” Leenhouts said.

Leenhouts remarked on the weekend attendance as local Florida residents are offered a buy Saturday, get in Sunday free pass. “We’ve never seen that kind of activity. There were 10,000 cars in the parking lot; that means a minimum 35,000 to 40,000 people on Saturday alone,” he said.

“The skies were clear and the pathway to get in was open. We had a board member refuel in Knoxville, take off, and be told by ATC to ‘follow everyone else,’” Leenhouts said. “I’ve never seen anything like this; the world is open for business.”

flysnf.org

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