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Soaring to No. 1: Blue Angels tap Eau Claire as its top air show of 2015

The Blue Angels F/A-18 Hornet warplanes fly in formation July 4 during the Chippewa Valley Air Show at Chippewa Valley Regional Airport in Eau Claire. The local stop was named best show of 2015 by the Blue Angels on Monday.

It all came down to details.
The Chippewa Valley Council of the Boy Scouts of America and its volunteers spent the better part of a year arranging hotels, preparing ground support equipment and coordinating with police and fire departments — all to prepare the ground for arrival of the U.S. Navy Blue Angels.
That attention to detail didn’t go unnoticed by the Blue Angels, who named Eau Claire’s event the 2015 Air Show of the Year, an award the Chippewa Valley Air Show also received in 2008.
The Blue Angels barrel rolled through the skies in 37 locations this year, including at Chippewa Valley Regional Airport, an event that attracted about 70,000 spectators during the two-day event July 4-5.

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“I don’t know that any of us expected to win,” said Matt Hill, executive director for the Chippewa Valley Council. “They were very impressed with the committee and the air show, so we knew there was a chance.”
The announcement was made Monday in Las Vegas during the International Council of Air Shows  annual convention.
“The Chippewa Valley Air Show personified what it meant to plan and execute a safe and successful air show,” said Blue Angels spokesman Lt. Joe Hontz. “We were overwhelmed with the amount of planning and professionalism they demonstrated. This is the way air shows should be organized.”
Volunteer Steve Dickoff said the Blue Angels organization provides sponsors with a detailed instruction manual to ensure smooth transitions in and out of each location where it performs.
“It’s a big job with a lot of moving parts, and certainly it is stressful in getting it all done and making sure everything happens as it’s supposed to,” Dickoff said.
He attributed the award more to the sponsors’ sincere efforts to take care of the entire Blue Angels’ team, about 130 people.
“In some cases, pilots and officers might get top-shelf treatment, and the rest of the crew might not,” he said. “Whether they’re the mechanics or marketing or crew chiefs — literally every person — we want to make sure they have a great experience.”
Last year, the Cleveland National Air Show was awarded the honor out of 35 Blue Angels performance locations.
The Blue Angels performed in the Chippewa Valley in 2010 and were scheduled to return in 2013, but federal budget cuts prompted its cancellation.
Hill said the Boy Scouts hope to have the Blue Angels return to Chippewa Valley Regional Airport in 2018.
“We want them to come and have a good time as well,” Dickoff said. “Their response suggests we’re doing that.”

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