Myrtle Beach is not on track as planned to have an air show over the ocean this year featuring the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds, and it’s unclear if the popular shows will return any time soon.
A lack of money from corporate sponsorships and wavering local enthusiasm caused plans for a show this spring or summer to fizzle. The show was originally set to happen last summer as part of Myrtle Beach’s 75th birthday bash, but federal budget problems that led to the grounding of the main act in the Thunderbirds forced organizers to cancel the show, though they vowed it would be rescheduled for 2014.
Air Boss Inc., which was set to put on the show last year, didn’t get funding and cooperation from locals to make the show happen this year, Air Boss president and owner George Cline said.
“So right now we have nothing,” Cline said. “I would love to do a show there. Myrtle Beach is a prime place to have an air show.”
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 every June, and Myrtle Beach and Horry County officials have been trying to lure one back since the last air show in 2006.
Another private company that puts on air shows is looking to possibly have a show here in late summer or early fall, but it isn’t likely to happen, said Brad Dean, president and CEO of the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce who has worked with air show organizers. Dean declined to name the private company.
“Their funding is not in place and, as such, I would call it possible but far from probable,” he said. “At this point, I don’t anticipate an air show for 2014.”
Cline said an air show can cost between $150,000 to $180,000 – $200,000 or more for a primo event. That includes costs for the performers, smoke oil used in the acts, hotel rooms, cars and other expenses, he said.
Cline said he had the big acts lined up to have an air show in Myrtle Beach in April or May, but didn’t get the money or a response from locals to make it happen. He had spent about $5,000 on deposits to hold acts for the planned show this year after it was canceled in 2013.
Horry County Councilman Brent Schulz said he lost his passion for helping to bring an air show to Myrtle Beach after last year’s mess caused by the federal budget cuts. Congress failed to reach an agreement before the automatic budget cuts kicked in, causing waves of cuts in federal services, including the grounding of the Thunderbirds’ air shows. Schulz said he had spent about 18 months helping to arrange last year’s show, only to have it abruptly canceled for issues beyond his control.
“It kind of takes the wind out of your sails,” Schulz said. “Pulling together an air show is very difficult to do. We had all that stuff lined up. There’s so much more to do than line up planes. It just takes a whole lot of time.”
And money. For last year’s show, Horry County had planned to chip in $80,000 for marketing, but never spent it and rescinded the allocation after the show was canceled. Myrtle Beach hadn’t yet talked about chipping in before the show was called off.
“In most communities, promotional sponsorships and government funds round out the funding but the majority of financial support usually comes from corporate America and those funds have been hard to come by locally,” Dean said.
Cline is still hopeful he can one day bring an air show back to Myrtle Beach – a perfect spot for one, he says, because the aircraft fly over the ocean and draw throngs of spectators.
“I’m still hoping to do a show there,” he said.
Contact DAWN BRYANT at 626-0296 or at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her at Twitter.com/TSN_dawnbryant.