The Blue Angels wowed crowds in Friday’s dress rehearsal.
Showers and storm clouds threatened Friday’s air show practice on Pensacola Beach, but did not stop the U.S. Navy Blue Angels from thrilling a record crowd.
And Saturday’s show is expected to draw an even bigger crowd.
Paolo Ghio, director of the Santa Rosa Island Authority, encouraged people to plan ahead for the show.
“Get here early, be patient, stay hydrated, have fun and don’t get your car stuck in the sand,” Ghio said Friday while watching the Red Line flight demonstration team’s acrobatic stunts.
All of the air show acts put in full performances, despite the threatening weather, which prompted warnings from public safety officials who encouraged beachgoers to take shelter because of lightning a couple of times.
The main parking lot at Casino Beach closed at 8:30 a.m., a record for a Friday practice show. Beach officials use the nearly 1,000-space lot to gauge attendance.
Ghio encouraged people heading to the beach on Saturday to consider parking in the beach’s Park East or Park West lots and taking a trolley to Casino Beach to catch the show.
“It’s a free ride on a nice open trolley,” he said.
The occasional rain didn’t bother beach visitors on Friday.
“It’s always a sunny day if you are happy,” said Sharon Jobe of Pensacola who sat under a large tent with friends and family.
Kristin Binkley of Nashville grew up in Gulf Breeze and said the annual beach show is one of her favorite events.
“It’s like a huge tailgate party but with the beach and with airplanes instead of football. It’s really cool,” she said.
Denise Brown of Navarre said the clouds and rain made for a pleasant day.
“It’s nice, and it is cooling us off a bit,” she said.
The Blue Angels delighted fans for nearly an hour with their breathtaking maneuvers.
The beach crowd cheered and clapped as the blue and gold F/A-18 Hornets streaked over the Gulf.
The McCabb family set up their beachfront chairs and tarp at 2:30 a.m. to get a prime spot. Their display included a line of American and Blue Angels flags.
“It’s the Blue Angels and Pensacola Beach. This fantastic,” Garrett McCabb said as he watched the show.
Donna Gaskins of Pensacola showed up before 5 a.m. to set up a card table with a buffet of homemade foods.
Gaskins, 75, brings food to the show every year and welcomes anyone to grab a plate.
“I was cooking at 3 (a.m.) this morning. It’s something I really enjoy doing,” she said.
Alex Ritchie, part of the sound crew for the main stage, took a break and sat under the tent with Gaskins and her husband.
“She is great. All she asks for is a smile and a little conversation,” he said while trying Gaskin’s grape salad.