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With sunny skies, airshow sees strong attendance

From his job at NorthStar Ford, Andy Saari was able to enjoy the view of some practice runs by the U.S. Navy Blue Angels in recent days.

But that early preview didn’t keep Saari and his wife, Jackie, from attending the Duluth Air and Aviation Expo on Sunday. They were there to see the iconic aerobatic demonstration team provide the grand finale to the two-day show.

“They’re amazing to watch,” said Saari, of Solon Springs. “It’s the main reason I’m here.”

And the weather sure didn’t hurt.

Temperatures climbed to 83 degrees at the Duluth International Airport on Sunday — the warmest day of the year so far. With mostly blue skies overhead, it was an ideal day for flying.

“Compared to what they were predicting yesterday,” Saari said, “it’s perfect.”

For an event that has sometimes been dampened by rain, clouds or fog, spokesman Roger Reinert said Sunday likely marked the best single weather day in airshow history.

Attendance was set to outpace last year’s total, he said, though numbers were still being tallied Sunday night. An estimated 28,000 attended Saturday; about half as many typically show on Sunday, though Reinert said second-day attendance was likely higher this time around.

“The story of this airshow is what the weather did,” he said. “On Monday we were drafting releases about what to do if we were rained out. Both Saturday and Sunday looked not good.”

Wade and Cari Stewart of Lewistown, Mont., happened to be in the Twin Ports to attend a wedding and found out about the airshow while researching other area attractions.

“We’ve never been to an airshow before,” Wade said. “We were just looking for things to do after the wedding, and this turned out to be perfect.”

They said they were impressed by the number of people in attendance at the event.

“The weather is beautiful,” Cari said. “It’s been that way the whole time we’ve been here.”

The ninth airshow under organizer Ryan Kern, the 2017 event was the first to be held the year following a previous airshow. While the show had traditionally stuck to a biennial schedule, this year’s event was scheduled when the Blue Angels notified organizers of their availability for the weekend.

It’s already been confirmed that the airshow will return for a third consecutive year in July 2018, with the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds headlining. They were last here in 2016.

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