|The U.S. Navy Blue Angels return to Brunswick this weekend for the Great State of Maine Air Show.|
BRUNSWICK, Maine — The U.S. Navy Blue Angels will again soar through the sky over Brunswick for Labor Day weekend.
The elite fliers will be joined by a U.S. Air Force F-22 Raptor, a Marine Corps C-130 called “Fat Albert,” and a car with a jet engine.
But while the Great State of Maine Air Show used to be operated by the Navy, and then the authority tasked with redeveloping the former naval air station, this year it will be operated by a private company.
The company, the Air Show Network, has organized more than 1,000 air shows since it was founded in 1983, according to its website.
Speaking after the conclusion of Thunder Over Michigan in Ypsilanti, Michigan, company spokesman Herb Gillan said 70,000-80,000 people are expected to attend the Brunswick event.
“Advance ticket sales have been very strong,” Gillan said. “We’re expecting good crowds, and it looks like the weather forecast is going to be gorgeous for the weekend.”
The fact the Blue Angels are coming back, and the F-22 Raptor is coming for the first time, has people excited, he added.
Gillan said the military lineup is rounded out by civilian pilots. Pilot Kent Pietsch lands his “Jelly Belly” airplane on the back of a moving vehicle, which he calls “the shortest runway on earth.”
Anna Serbinenko, a self-titled “sky dancer,” flies her plane to classical music.
And on the ground, the “Smoke-N-Thunder,” a race car with a jet engine, will hit speeds upwards of 400 mph on the runway.
The air show has attracted some negative attention this year, with Topsham resident Conrad Lebourdais, who fought in World War II, encouraging a boycott because the company does not provide free or discounted tickets to veterans.
The Midcoast Regional Redevelopment Authority has offered to purchase a ticket for any veteran who can’t afford one.
But Lebourdais isn’t satisfied. “It’s the principle,” he told the Bangor Daily News Aug. 17.
“We respect him for his service,” Gillan said Monday. “But you know the facts are the show has to be paid for, and the aircraft that are coming in, including military aircraft, cost money.”
He said “it’s unfortunate” Lebourdais is “trying to harm the show,” because this year’s success, or failure, will help determine whether the event comes back again.
Gates open at 8 a.m. Saturday, Sept. 5, and Sunday, Sept. 6. Tickets bought in advance are $25 for adults, $12.50 for children. They will be $30 and $15 at the gate.