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New perspective: Duluth airshow a family-friendly, educational event

T06.03.2017 -- Steve Kuchera -- 060417.N.DNT.AirShowC2 -- Two members of the U.S. Navy Blue Angels pass each other during their performance at the Duluth Air and Aviation Expo Saturday. Steve Kuchera / skuchera@duluthnews.com

Elliott Bowles and Jordan Cogan came north for the day after a friend came across information online about the Duluth Air and Aviation Expo.

They were excited to see the Blue Angels perform during the airshow, but they were there to see everything, they said. Bowles, who has his pilot’s license, said it’s fun to be around an airport. He tries to get up in a plane often, but he hasn’t since he moved to Minneapolis last year.

“I think going up in an airplane gives you a really good perspective of the ground below. You can get deep with that, think about life and all that,” he said with a laugh. “It’s a very peaceful way to see the world from a new perspective. It’s fun to do.”

As a Canadian SkyHawks member floated toward the ground with a large Canadian flag waving in the wind to the tune of “O Canada,” two other members were performing acrobatics in the sky that involved floating upside down.

Once on the ground, the Canadian SkyHawks — Canada’s military parachute team of 14 jumpers based in Trenton, Ontario — went into the crowd to roll up their parachutes. A father pointed out the jumpers to his son, and families stopped to take photos with the SkyHawks. A few children helped Sgt. Josh Oakie fold his parachute and then rolled on it to get any remaining air out before the parachute was put back into its container, ready for the SkyHawks’ next jump.

“Landing and hearing the crowd roar” is the best part of performing at airshows, Oakie said.

“It’s really fun to fly and do the formations, but if we didn’t have the crowd to entertain, it takes a bit away from it if we didn’t have them around,” Oakie said.

Although the SkyHawks have performed at the Duluth airshow before, this is Oakie’s first year with the SkyHawks and coming to Duluth. The team travels around the U.S. for airshows during the summer, giving the team a chance to show off its abilities and support Canada’s partnership with the U.S., Oakie said.

“We take an opportunity to go through the crowd as well and talk to the kids and explain parachuting to them. We’ve spent the last couple days going to a bunch of elementary schools talking to kids as school, as well,” he said.

Moose Lake resident Wally Granquist joked that he’s been watching the airshow for the last two days from his job at Cirrus. He sees the 148th Fighter Wing’s F-16s frequently while at work, and he was curious to see the F-35 at the airshow because he has heard of them, but never seen one.

“It’s the flying, how they go straight up. I like the noise. I like that it shakes you,” he said.

He was attending the airshow with his daughters on Saturday to see the Blue Angels, which he has previously watched at other airshows, he said, adding, “I like airplanes, always have.”

He was a little worried about the weather on Saturday, but forecasted storms ended up being cloudy with only a few raindrops. He explained that he always buys tickets on the day of the event instead of in advance because he waits to see the weather first.

Jack Cervilla and his son had just finished looking inside the U.S. Air Force’s C-17 on Saturday afternoon and Cervilla noted that his son had a lot of smiles so far during the day. They traveled north from Richfield, Minn., to see the Blue Angels. He has watched the Blue Angels before — he grew up in Maryland and went to airshows at Joint Base Andrews.

“It brings me back to my childhood to see them and I want to pass that on to this guy,” he said, pointing to his son. “It’s fun. It’s a nice atmosphere here. We enjoy it.”

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