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Blue Angels visit brings excitement to town

After last weekend, Assemblyman Vince Fong can cross one item off his bucket list. He got to see the Blue Angels fly.

Fong told the Daily Independent Friday that “getting to watch the Blue Angels has been on my bucket list for a long time, so I am very excited that I get to see them tomorrow.” Fong, who said he had just arrived in town, had been regaled with videos of the group’s flight tests.

“A lot of my friends have been sending me videos. I am super excited,” he said.

Fong was on hand at Friday’s Meet and Greet at the Kerr McGee Center to help welcome the Blue Angels to town. Also in attendance was Mayor Peggy Breeden who said it’s almost impossible to hear the Blue Angels fly overhead without having a tear come to one’s eye because of all that they represent to the country.

Also present were Kern County First District Supervisor Mick Gleason and several members of the Ridgecrest City Council. They joined the enormous crowd that packed the Kerr McGee Center for the event.

The Blue Angels were welcomed to town, and the admiration is mutual, according to Commander Ryan Bernacchi. After the Blue Angels took the stage to a standing ovation, Bernacchi spoke on the appropriateness of holding an air show at China Lake.

“From the moment we showed up overhead in Ridgecrest and landed in China Lake this has been an incredible welcome,” he said. “We have not had a welcome like this in the year that I have been on the team. It might not be by accident. We haven’t been here since 1993.

“It’s been a long time since the Blue Angels have been here but that’s not the case for Naval aviation. Because this is a Navy town, and this is a Naval aviation town and you can feel it. This is a really important and special place. Because it is here where you guys as a community bring your talent and your incredible intellect and you apply it to making this nation better and stronger. And the weapons development that goes on and could only go on in this very special place.”

Several awards were given, then was time for the Blue Angels to mingle with the crowd. They signed autographs for a seemingly endless stream of giddy kids, swapped flight stories with old Navy pilots, posed for selfies with teenagers and even signed things for some grownups. Also in attendance were the U.S. Army’s Black Daggers who also patiently signed many autographs.

In all the event was a suitable kick-off for the Blue Angels participation in the China Lake Airshow over the weekend. For more on the airshow, see related story this edition.

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