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Smoky Mountain Air Show takes off

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Blue Angels 5 and 6 make a close pass during the Blue Angels performance Saturday afternoon at the Smoky Mountain Air Show. Officials estimated that around 120,000 people viewed the performances.
Blue Angels 5 and 6 make a close pass during the Blue Angels performance Saturday afternoon at the Smoky Mountain Air Show. Officials estimated that around 120,000 people viewed the performances.
Greg Koontz flies his Decathlon upside down to cut a ribbon suspended 18 feet above the runway at Saturday’s Smoky Mountain Air Show. The air show continues today at McGhee Tyson Air National Guard Base.
Greg Koontz flies his Decathlon upside down to cut a ribbon suspended 18 feet above the runway at Saturday’s Smoky Mountain Air Show. The air show continues today at McGhee Tyson Air National Guard Base.
The decorated nose of an A-10 Warthog with it’s cannon built for attacking tanks was a popular stop for people touring the displays air show. The event continues today. Several types of aircraft are on display, and many are open for touring.
The decorated nose of an A-10 Warthog with it’s cannon built for attacking tanks was a popular stop for people touring the displays air show. The event continues today. Several types of aircraft are on display, and many are open for touring.
An Air Force B-1 bomber greets spectators at the lower ramp where many of the larger static aircraft are parked. Several types of aircraft are on display at McGhee Tyson Air National Guard Base this weekend. Many of the planes on display are open to the public for touring and viewing.
An Air Force B-1 bomber greets spectators at the lower ramp where many of the larger static aircraft are parked. Several types of aircraft are on display at McGhee Tyson Air National Guard Base this weekend. Many of the planes on display are open to the public for touring and viewing.
Four Blue Angels pass the viewing area doing rolls in formation during their Saturday performance at the Smoky Mountain Air Show. The air show continues today.
Four Blue Angels pass the viewing area doing rolls in formation during their Saturday performance at the Smoky Mountain Air Show. The air show continues today.

They poured into
McGhee Tyson Air National Guard Base Saturday by the thousands, some
armed with binoculars, others peering through camera phones pointed
toward the sky. Still others yet made use of ear plugs to block out the
sometimes deafening blasts of thunder rolling by.

The Smoky Mountain
Air Show, which continues today, welcomed people of all ages — and from
all over — to an event the area hasn’t experienced in 16 years. Many
apparently decided it was too good an opportunity to miss.

Maryville resident Justin Loftis
and his family were among them. Loftis said he worked in the civil air
patrol at the air base back in 2000 when the last air show took place.
When he and his wife, Tammi, heard the air show was returning, they
immediately made plans to attend with their two sons, Bradyn, 8, and
Braxten, 5.

“I remembered how much fun I had, and I wanted the kids to experience the whole thing,” Justin Loftis said.

“I came as a spectator in 2000,” Tammi said. “I was really excited about it coming back.”

For Bradyn and Braxten, it was their first time at an air show.

“It was great,” Bradyn said after watching the 30-minute Blue Angels performance.

The 8-year-old said it was one of
his favorite parts of show. He also appreciated the aircraft on display
along the taxi way, particularly the larger ones.

“The big planes were awesome,” Bradyn said.

For this family of four, the only
thing better than being able to attend this year’s air show would be a
chance to do so every year. “I would love that,” Justin said. “If they
could do a regular event, that would be awesome.”

Maryville resident Beverly Hill
said she was surprised by how many people came out. An announcement
across the air base PA system notified attendees that around 120,000
people were watching the planes — either from inside the air base or
from strategic vantage points along its outskirts.

“Very surprised about the crowds and the lines,” Hill said. “But hey, comes along with it, I guess.”

Hill, who was at the show with
several family members, including her 3-year-old nephew and 7-year-old
niece, said it was the first air show for the lot of them.

“When we heard it was going to be here, we thought it might be the last one,” Hill said. “You never know.”

Making the Drive

While area residents like Hill
and the Loftis family didn’t have far to go to enjoy the air show,
others had a much longer drive. Michael Mitchem came from the
Spartanburg, S.C., area with his fiance, Hannah, and daughter, Courtney.
They said the trip took about three hours.

“Yeah, we like them,” Mitchem said of air shows.

Mitchem said the last one he attended was about seven years ago in Spartanburg.

“It wasn’t nothing like this,” Mitchem said. “(Nothing) this big.”

A truck driver, Mitchem said he
drives through Tennessee every day and heard about the air show on the
radio. The trio arrived at around 9 a.m. to make a day of it.

Youth: Clydesdales her highlight

Eight-year-old Courtney Mitchem, a
horse lover, said the highlight for her was seeing the Budweiser
Clydesdales. She did have one knock against the air show, however.

“Wish they had more seats,” she said.

That’s one thing Alcoa resident Bill Pearson recommends bringing if attending today.

“Bring yourself a seat to sit down,” Pearson said. “And bring yourself some water to drink. Come early, stay late.”

Kay Pearson, Bill’s wife, gave the event high praise.

“I just think it’s a great thing
for the community,” Kay Pearson said. “And I think everybody who’s been
here today has enjoyed it.”

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