Myrtle Beach won’t be celebrating its 75th birthday with an air show after all.
Organizers canceled the event Monday, saying the show wouldn’t be the same without the headlining act, the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds. The Thunderbirds’ air show appearances this year starting April 1 were canceled because of sequestration, which has created a wave of cancellations of air shows across the country.
The show, scheduled for June 28-30 over the ocean near the former Myrtle Beach Pavilion Amusement Park, would have been the first air show in Myrtle Beach in seven years.
Organizers had said earlier this month that the show would go on with or without the Thunderbirds, but sponsors weren’t as interested without that headlining act, said George Cline, president and owner of show producer Air Boss Inc. And hotels were concerned about blocking off rooms for air show performers during the peak summer season if they weren’t going to be used.
“When you lose the headline act you lose the momentum going into it,” Cline said. “I hate it happened but it’s one of those things we have no control over.”
Cline said Monday that organizers are now focused on scheduling an air show in Myrtle Beach in May 2014, and he’s pursuing the Thunderbirds and all the other performers that had been lined up for this year.
Among the other acts that had been scheduled to perform: AreoShell Aerobatic Team, Mike Lucas-Lucas Oil Air Show team, Raiders Aerobatic team, the Fowler Cary T33 Jet and the All Veteran Parachute Team. The U.S. Army Band also was scheduled to perform.
“I think we have a very good chance of getting [the Thunderbirds] back,” Cline said. “They were really looking forward to coming there.”
Air shows are popular draws for the Grand Strand, with throngs of spectators flocking to the sand to watch the action overhead. Air shows were often part of the now defunct Sun Fun Festival, and Myrtle Beach and Horry County officials have been trying to lure one back since the last air show in 2006.
The air show would have been the signature event to celebrate Myrtle Beach’s 75th birthday this year, though many other smaller events are in the works. City leaders are brainstorming other options.
“The air show would have been a nice summer highlight,” city spokesman Mark Kruea said. “Something of that magnitude is going to be hard to replace, but we’ve got our thinking caps on.”
The U.S. Air Force grounded the Thunderbirds season of air shows this year after Congress failed to reach an agreement and automatic budget cuts kicked in March 1. The Air Force canceled support to all air shows, tradeshows, flyovers, orientation flights, heritage flights, F-22 demonstration flights and open houses. Last week, organizers of the Air Expo set for June over Charleston Harbor, which also would have featured the Thunderbirds, canceled that event.
“The decision to cancel this year’s [Myrtle Beach] air show was a difficult one to make, but as I always say, ‘go big or go home,’” Myrtle Beach Mayor John Rhodes said in the news release. “We wanted to produce the biggest and best air show for the Myrtle Beach area and not having a headliner like the Thunderbirds limits our ability to do so. It is an absolute shame that Congress and the White House couldn’t reach a compromise to this budget crisis.”
John Cudahy, president of the Virginia-based International Council of Air Shows, told The Associated Press that at least 150 U.S. air shows each year count on military performers to draw big crowds.
A group like the Blue Angels or the Thunderbirds can account for 10 to 30 percent of attendance – in some cases enough to determine if a show makes or loses money, AP reported.
Contact DAWN BRYANT at 626-0296 or at email@example.com or follow her at Twitter.com/TSN_dawnbryant.