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Crowd gathers for Lincoln Air Show

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Blue Angel #1 starts his engines but heavy smoke from forest fires in Minnesota and wildfires in Canada caused the cancellation of their show at the Guardians of Freedom Air Show at the Lincoln Municipal Airport Saturday.
The Flash Fire Jet Truck roars by the crowd at more that 300 mph at the Guardians of Freedom Airshow.
The crowd starts to gather for the Guardians of Freedom Airshow at the Lincoln Municipal Airport on Saturday

Shortly after 3 p.m. on Saturday, hundreds of people gathered as close to the runway as possible to see the stars of Lincoln’s Guardians of Freedom Air Show — the Blue Angels.

The pilots got in their respective planes, and just as it looked like they were about to take off, an announcement came overhead.

“Due to weather conditions, the Blue Angels will not be performing today. We’re sorry for the inconvenience.”

Shouts of frustration and anger could be heard as people made their way out of Air Park. When Sue Lukasiewicz first heard the announcement, she thought it was a joke.

“I thought they just told us that to see how everybody would react,” she said.

She said it looked like the show was just getting started. Lukasiewicz brought her 5- and 8-year-old grandchildren hoping they could see the performance.

Michael Wendell, a private pilot from Grant, said he can’t blame them for canceling the show. Between the smoke coming in from Canada and the wind, he said conditions were bad.

“That’s the thing about flying,” Wendell said. “Weather dictates.”

The air show went from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and will do so again on Sunday. The free event is an educational experience even for the most seasoned aviator. People had many avenues to learn about various types of aircraft.

Food tents and other activities stretched down the runway.

Those who arrived early jockeyed for positions to set up lawn chairs and picnic blankets to watch military planes of all shapes and sizes do flips, spins and dives.

Wahoo resident Tausha Pokorny said the appeal of the airshow was the ability to enjoy it with her family.

“There’s a lot to do down here, lots of different things to see, lots of things our boys like,” Pokorny said. “We live outside of Wahoo in the country and we have military helicopters fly over our house all the time and our boys just love that.”

As for self-described ‘military brat’ John Barrett, seeing the wide variety of planes and military equipment felt a little bit like home. He used to work at Duncan Aviation.

”I’ve been going to air shows since I was in a stroller,” Barrett said. “I just have a love of airplanes.”

Some people didn’t just come for the planes, though.

Eric Nelson founded Precision Exotics three years ago with the hope of reaching car enthusiasts nationwide by traveling with the Air Show.

Nelson has a Ferrari and a Lamborghini that travels with his company. For $100, the average person can drive these $200,000 cars for a few minutes and experience an exhilarating ride, Nelson said.

“Air craft enthusiasts and car enthusiasts are separated by about a chromosome,” Nelson said. “So pretty much everyone out here is interested in this.”

After the Blue Angels show didn’t happen, people flocked to Precision Exotics. Ezra Puchalla, 12, and his brother, Levi, 10, both rode in the Lamborghini.

“It was awesome,” Levi said. “I put my hands up the whole time.”

Staff Sgt. Brennan DeFazio of Virginia Beach, Virginia, said her favorite part of the Air Show is watching people’s reactions when they learn more about the military and see a demonstration of what they do.

“My favorite part of the air show is just really connecting with the people and showing what our military does,” DeFazio said.

“In addition to entertainment, airshows like today’s are also a crucial time for recruitment,” DeFazio said.

The Air Force recruits not only nationwide, but even in places like Canada, Dubai and Korea.

“Our mission is a dual purpose, first of all being to demonstrate airpower,” DeFazio said. “Number two is to kind of recruit and bring in our next generation of airmen into the Air Force.”

More than anything, though, DeFazio hopes the public can connect with their military.

“Especially now that there’s so much turmoil in the U.S. with politics and what not, it’s so nice to just be out here and demonstrate to these people that this is our air power and this is what we do and this is how we provide,” DeFazio said.

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