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‘Pretty amazing’: Chippewa Valley Air Show promises more air-defying thrills next weekend

The flag waves as four of the U.S. Navy Blue Angels F/A-18 Hornets pass in the distance on July 4, 2015, during the Chippewa Valley Air Show. The 2018 show is Saturday and Sunday, June 16 and 17, at Chippewa Valley Regional Airport.

Tim Molepske can’t wait for his sons to see the signature U.S. Navy Blue Angels’ blue and gold F/​A-18 Hornets fly overhead.

“It’s going to be great,” Molepske said. “Trying to show them YouTube videos of the Blue Angels taking off just isn’t the same.”

The Blue Angels return next weekend to Chip-pewa Valley Regional Airport for the 2018 Chippewa Valley Air Show.

“It’s Father’s Day weekend, making it a good time to come out with your children,” said Molepske, scout executive of the Chippewa Valley Council of the Boys Scouts of America, which serves more than 4,600 youth in 10 counties in northwestern Wisconsin.

Almost 60 nonprofit organizations helping the Scouts run the event will get part of the proceeds, and after the talent and bills are paid, the remaining funds will support Scout camping programs, Molepske said. “This will allow us to do some neat things at our camps.”

The local Boy Scouts organized its first Chippewa Valley Air Show in 2008, and for the effort they received the National Air Show of the Year Award from the Blue Angels. The Scouts hosted the event again in 2010, but federal funding cuts that grounded the Blue Angels forced the cancellation of the 2013 show. Two years later, the Chippewa Valley Air Show and the Blue Angels were back.

As they have in past shows, Scouts will volunteer for the event. On Saturday night, a World War II veteran whose plane was shot down will speak to Scouts during their camporee, Molepske said.

“I’m looking forward to hearing him speak,” Molepske said. “That will be a fascinating story.”

B-29 expected

In addition to the Blue Angels, Molepske expects “Doc,” one of only two flying B-29 bombers in the world, to be a draw.

The United States primarily used the long-range heavy bombers in the Pacific Theater during World War II, according to manufacturer Boeing’s website. Two of them, the “Enola Gay” and “Bockscar,” dropped the atomic bombs on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

The last B-29 in squadron use was retired from service in 1960, according to Boeing, which submitted the proposal for the bomber to the Army in 1940 before the U.S. entered the war.

“It will be a great piece of history that our community will be able to see,” said Molepske, noting some people will be able to hitch a ride on “Doc” on Thursday and Friday.

Another bomber, the North American B-25 Mitchell, will be among the aircraft that will be part of the static displays, which also will include a Soviet tank, Vietnam strike assault boat and veterans tribute wall.

“There is so much work that goes into this by so many people,” airport manager Charity Zich said. “Walking through the crowd and seeing how excited people are makes it all worth it.”

The show starts at noon both days and follows the same schedule, with the Wings of Blue, the U.S. Air Force Skydiving Team, kicking off the festivities with its flag jump and the Blue Angels concluding the show. In between, there will be a variety of demos, including aerobatic planes, an F-16 Fighting Falcon, a Huey helicopter and a jet truck, according to the show website.

“Any time you see high-speed jets flying, it’s a pretty amazing thing to see,” Molepske said. “The Wings of Blue, it will be exciting to see what they do, and the jet truck, it’s loud and noisy and goes super fast. What more could you want?”

30,000 each day

More than 30,000 people are expected each day of the show. To get them into the grounds safely, the traffic flow on Melby Street, Starr Avenue and North Lane will be restrict before and after the show, Eau Claire police Lt. Tim Golden said.

“Our goal is ultimately the safety of the folks attending the event,” said Golden, who advises people to be patient as they enter and exit the airport.

Once the performances begin each day, some streets around the airport will be closed, he said.

Golden retires the Thursday after the air show after more than 27 years with the Eau Claire Police Department and a ride with the Blue Angels.

“It’s definitely going to be a once-in-a-lifetime experience,” said Golden, whose wife and daughters will be on hand for his flight and photos.

“It’s been nice working with him,” Molepske said. “I’m glad we’re able to honor him for his years of helping us with the show.”