Attendance down at 2013 Thunder in the Valley

Attendance down at 2013 Thunder in the Valley

lgierer@ledger-enquirer.comApril 3, 2013 

The 2013 Thunder in the Valley Air Show had approximately 9,000 fewer people come through the gates than in 2012, but event coordinator Phaedra Childers still called the affair a success despite the more than 35 percent drop in attendance.

"I feel confident the show was profitable and that we will be able to support our local charities," Childers said Wednesday.

If so, the amount given out won't be nearly as much. In August, $48,500 was distributed to 10 youth organizations and charities from across the Chattahoochee Valley.

The final financial figures from this year's show won't be known until May, according to Childers.

The 2012 show had 25,400 people attend. Childers said this year the number was 16,015.

She said about 2,000 watched for free from outside the Columbus Airport on March 16-17.

Hurting attendance at this year's show, the 16th annual Thunder in the Valley, Childers said, was the armed forces pulling out of the show because of the mandatory budget cuts known as the sequester.

The Army pulled its vehicles and weapons displays. The Navy canceled an appearance by the F-18 TAC Demo Team.

While there were no modern airplanes or military displays, there were airplanes, tanks and other vehicles used in World War II, Korea and Vietnam.

Childers anticipated a reduction in attendance because a survey done in 2012 showed 72 percent saying modern military performances and displays were what attracted them to the show.

"We had a great show and I have received a lot emails from people saying how much they enjoyed it, but we certainly hope that the military will be back with us next year," she said.

Several air shows around the country were canceled when the military pulled out, and Childers has heard some people believed Thunder in the Valley was also canceled.

One change that was made for Thunder in the Valley when the military pulled out was adding a "wall of fire" finale, which was very popular.

When considering the lower attendance, Childers said the show had a lot of competition that weekend. For example, Disney on Ice, a very popular annual attraction here, was at the Columbus Civic Center.

Childers said she is "not sure what effect that had," but she knows it did not help.

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