Wednesday, September 16, 1998
Falcon Field was eerily empty and quiet Monday afternoon following a weekend of high-flying history. Peachtree City's first-ever air show, Wings Over Dixie, closed Sunday evening with patrons, performers and organizers mostly pleased .
"We obviously know how to put on an air show," said Jim Friday, the Confederate Air Force Colonel who headed up the show. "We need to do it again; I believe we can do it even better."
Friday and Tom Barnes, who acted as finance officer for the event, reported an estimated 11,000 paid admissions to the show. "We had about 15,000 people here over two days, including the performers, sponsors, vendors and volunteers," Barnes said. Attendance was lower than the anticipated 10,000 people per day, but Barnes added, "We do know we made a profit." Final tabulations have not been made. The show's profits will be donated to the Fayette County Youth Protection Homes and the Confederate Air Force, whose mission is to keep America's vintage war birds flying.
"In a general sense, we presented them (the public) a very good show. Behind the scenes, there were some rough edges. In our debriefing, we'll make some adjustments for future events," said Jim Savage, airport manager at Falcon Field. "For a first effort, it was a very good show," he added.
Traffic, parking, and noise appeared to give everyone the biggest headaches. According to Friday, more parking close to the field is needed. While organizers and Peachtree City Police Chief Jim Murray agreed that the shuttle buses running from Starr's Mill High School to the field worked well, there was some confusion over the locations of the $10 parking versus the $1 park and ride. The result was traffic tie-ups in and around Falcon Field.
"We just weren't sure what the traffic patterns were going to be," Friday said. However, organizers reported better traffic flow on Sunday. "Just like any big event, like the Fourth of July or the road race, we get better at it every year," Murray added.
There were a few cases of heat- related illness during the weekend, as temperatures soared up to the nineties, but no major medical emergencies were reported.
A number of Peachtree City residents phoned the police department in regard to the noise generated by the planes flying over their subdivisions. "We had the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) on the scene," Savage said. Despite the roar, Savage said all the planes flew at safe altitudes and "nothing was done that was unsafe."
Some of the planes expected at the event failed to show up, but a number of unexpected ones materialized, picking up the slack, according to Savage. "We had virtually every inch of asphalt, and even the grass covered," Savage said.
On the downside, Murray said one of the vendors reported the theft of $250 from his cash box. This is the only crime-related incident to surface. "For the number of people we had here, one incident is very low," Murray said.
An increase in the number of sponsors and volunteers, and a decrease in vendor's prices are items organizers plan to address in future events. Air Tran came forward at the last minute as a major sponsor of the air show, but Savage said there were not enough sponsors, making it necessary to pay some acts from gate receipts. A number of the stunt pilots who are also local residents, volunteered their time and expertise for the show, Friday said. "They were trying to get us going," Friday said. The pilots included Bob Abernathy, Pat Epps, Ed Bowlin, Lance Toland and Chris Smisson. "They did an excellent job," Friday noted.
Despite $3 lemonades, hot sun and a lot of noise, Wings Over Dixie was a an "enjoyable event," according to Friday.