Rockford Airfest celebrates 10 years of bringing people to RFD
Rockford Airfest 2005
ROCKFORD (WREX) -
For the past decade, the skies over Rockford have come alive for the summer's Airfest — but that wasn't always the case.
Rockford Airfest began in 2005 with just a few aerobatic acts and displays. At the same time, the Chicago Rockford International Airport was also trying to grow. There was not even passenger air service, just cargo.
"In 2005 we started picking up a couple more airlines and the development of the air show and the development of passenger air service pretty much coincided," says Dave Lindberg, RFD's assistant operations manager.
Rockford is one of the few airports that runs its own Airfest. The reason they use it to get people out to RFD.
"We draw a tremendous amount of people from the suburbs, southern Wisconsin, eastern Iowa, the central part of the state. These are people who aren't familiar with the airport and coming out and seeing the facilities is probably the best marketing we can do," Lindberg says.
Last year, a record-breaking year, more than 133,000 people came through the gates. This year, with the Blue Angles here, Airfest organizers think they can beat that record. And the big attendance numbers aren't a surprise.
Organizers say they went from four and five static displays to quadruple that amount. Plus, national teams like the Blue Angels and the Air Force Thunderbirds are regular headliners.
"The Airfest community both here locally, Chicago and Las Vegas, where the organization for Airfest operators are, we are now viewed as a tier one, one of the best air shows in the country," says Mike Dunn, RFD executive director.
Airfest organizers say the show is so important that they made sure the new airplane repair center that AAR is building is far enough away so it would not affect the event.